Hanging in my bedroom is an inexpensive print of a cowboy on his horse. Both look with trepidation to the left, beyond the frame’s border. The horse’s head is up, ears alert. He chomps the bit, every muscle poised to rear or bolt. The cowboy squints against the horizon assessing what is out of our sight. It could be a mountain lion or bandits.
We will never know, but the caption underneath summarizes it well: Danger Ahead.
During some of my darkest struggles, this print gives me an unexpected sense of comfort. Perhaps because it expresses so well what I feel, and therefore validates my own emotions: the wild eyes, the flared nostrils, the white knuckles. Perhaps because the rugged cowboy looks, despite his fear, as though he could handle whatever danger is lurking ahead. And some of his grim determination makes me think that I, too, can make it through. Day after day, the danger is still ahead, but so is the cowboy. I leave the house; I come home. He is still sitting strong and determined in his saddle. And so am I.
Even when we don’t know which way to turn, God gives us one clear direction to follow: persevere. Like that cowboy sitting in his saddle day after day, we are to get up and go out.
An odd thing happens when we do this. Our fear begins to grow into hope. The Bible tells us that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character, and character, hope (Romans 5:4). I have felt this transformation as I walked by that cowboy day by day into my own “danger ahead.”
In that hope, I have come to an even greater realization. I can’t see what lurks outside the cowboy’s frame, and I likewise can’t see outside my own frame. But even though I can’t see what’s ahead, there is Someone who can. And He is teaching me to trust Him.
Jesus is the author and perfecter of my faith. The New English Translation says Jesus is “the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:2) I like that to go with my western print. Jesus is my pioneer. He has blazed the trail so that I don’t have to fear what is ahead. It may be unknown to me, but it is not unknown to Jesus.
The same is true for you, too. None of us can see outside our frame, but Jesus can. And yes, He has warned us that there will be suffering and trials. The journey is not without its costs. But we never have to fear the ultimate danger. Jesus himself has cleared our path of death, sin, and the devil. And Jesus himself is travelling with us, grim and determined in the saddle. He is guiding us with His Spirit as we persevere through our trials and into joyful hope.
That’s a path worth taking.
Janet Beagle, Ph.D. serves as director of graduate programs for Purdue University’s College of Engineering and is a writer, a Bible study teacher, and a student of God’s word. In her spare time, she likes to eat other people’s cooking and hike with her dog, Marly. Read more of Janet’s Christian reflections at www.mustardpatch.org.