When you experience a fall on the path of life the crash may feel so intense that you feel you can’t get up. Here is the secret to how to go on after a life fall.
The Literal Trail of Life that Made Me Fall
At one-hundred-twenty miles long, Palo Duro Canyon is the second largest canyon in the United States. Palo Duro Canyon, located in Palo Duro State Park near Amarillo, Texas, is a vast place to hike and enjoy God’s creation. In some places, Palo Duro Canyon is twenty-one miles wide. By comparison, Closed Canyon, in Big Bend Ranch State Park just north of Lajitas, Texas, is a “slot canyon” meaning that it is a narrow canyon only several feet wide instead of miles. I give you these dimensions because I have hiked both canyons.
The Feelings of Being Safe and OK Before the Fall
Palo Duro Canyon has ample wide open spaces. Very little danger, unless climbing on one of the rock formations. I never felt any real sense of danger while hiking here.
In Closed Canyon, I felt no danger walking along the floor of the canyon, but that safe sense changed when I fell hard on a gargantuan hunk of rock.
Kelly and I were hiking our way out of the canyon and we had just turned around from the point where the trail ends in the canyon. There was a fine mist falling from the sky and the crushed pebble rocks beneath us were no problem on our trek in and out of the canyon. What was problematic was where the canyon floor was made of solid rock and has been polished smooth by years of rain water rushing down the canyon to the Rio Grande river. That polished rock was now wet and slippery.
Hitting the Danger Zone
I was wearing my relatively new hiking shoes that provide a lot of traction out on the trail. However, when a mass gets in motion going one way, and the base of the weight goes another, there is an imminent fall probability that goes to astronomical heights. I was attempting to traverse a small section of the canyon wall at a low angle to avoid having to climb up from one level to another, but even at that low angle my foot slipped out from under me. I crashed hard onto the solid rock landing on my left arm (elbow, forearm, and hand) that was bent underneath my torso and absorbed a lot of the weight in the fall. The rest of my body weight was disseminated along my left hip, knee, and shin. I smacked the floor in a semi-baseball hook-slide position, and my brain immediately dumped about 40 gallons of adrenaline into my system.
Life Paths and Sudden Falls
In your life and on your path, where have you fallen? Was it a slight trip up, or was it a crash landing like mine? Our lives are a path that we are walking, and everyday we take more steps down the path to eternity. How we travel down that path is determined by our relationship with God.
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105 ESV)
“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21 NIV)
“Because of your great compassion you did not abandon them in the wilderness. By day the pillar of cloud did not fail to guide them on their path, nor the pillar of fire by night to shine on the way they were to take.” (Nehemiah 9:19 NIV)
Do you know the path God is leading you through? You may only be able to see a few steps in front of you and nothing more. You will need to trust God to show you where to go.
The Well Worn Path Isn’t Always the Safest
Sometimes the path isn’t clear. Sometimes we look around searching for the way we should go, and it seems like a mystery because we can’t see the markers that are highlighting where to take the next step. The trail in the first picture only shows the path going so far, then disappears as the curvature of the mountain hides the direction the path takes.
The second picture shows a trail that is marked, but you have to look very carefully to see the marker. Otherwise, from first glance this is just a picture of some rocks. This trail goes straight ahead, but then turns up and to the right. This is a perfect illustration that sometimes our path of life looks as though it is going nowhere and we are lost, when in fact the path actually only lets you go one direction. The rocks in the very center of the picture are actually the boundary of the left side of the path. Hiking a trail and walking the path of life are the same; we must learn to see where the trail markers are to be able to stay on the path.
“This is what the Lord says: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, “We will not walk in it.” (Jeremiah 6:16 NIV)
Do you know where you are in life? Don’t ask, “Where am I going?” Ask “What is the old path that is the right way?” A well worn path doesn’t mean that it’s safe all the time. Kelly and I have walked many trails that are well worn, but dangerous because there are no guard rails and nothing to prevent us from falling if we take a misstep. Life is just like those trails. We have to learn to navigate them.
What to Do After You’ve Fallen
Sometimes we fall down, and fall down hard. Sometimes we crash land. Sometimes we get hurt when we crash land. Falling down doesn’t mean that we stop following the path or try to get onto another path. Sometimes all we can do is to get up, dust ourselves off, tend to the wounds and bruises, and then take the next step. Pastor Craig Groeschel puts it this way, “Do the next right thing.” The next right thing may just be one step.
Let me say it again; if you fall down, get back up. If you get hurt, ask for help.
Back to my fall. I went into “fight or flight” mode. After I crash-landed on my arm and leg Kelly screamed “Oh no!” I started sliding back down the four-and-a-half feet of rock I was trying to climb around. I didn’t know what condition my body was in, but I wasn’t going back down. I freed my left arm from underneath me and coordinated it with my right arm to fling both out wide in an attempt to gain traction with my bare hands to stop the slow slide. I kicked out both legs and worked to distribute my body weight, again without any idea what kind of condition I was in. I knew only one thing: I had to get up on my feet because I had to walk out of the canyon.
It flashed through my mind that Kelly would not have been able to carry me had I indeed incurred a serious injury. If my left knee, which started to hurt, was in bad shape, I knew that I had to get up and start walking out of the canyon so that I wouldn’t lose mobility as the knee started to swell from the impact.
In desperation to stop my downward momentum, I worked fast to flip over on my back and get my jeans in contact with the rock. The jean material was coarser than anything else I was wearing, and the trick worked. Pushing myself back up the rock with my hands, I made it up onto the level part of the rock in a seated position. I then stood up.
Getting Back Up After a Fall
Moses said to the people, “Do not fear! Stand firm and see the salvation of the Lord that he will provide for you today; for the Egyptians that you see today you will never, ever see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you can be still.” (Exodus 14:13-15 NET)
“Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the voice of his servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God.” (Isaiah 50:10 ESV)
When you fall, you need to get back up. I know, I know…sometimes we can’t get back up. Sometimes the pain is too great. Sometimes we have fallen so hard and have become so broken that there is no strength left in us to get up off the ground. I hear you. I’ve been there many times in my life. Does it seem like the light has vanished and you’ve been plunged into darkness? Call on Jesus to bring his light to you.
“Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I, for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy. Let me dwell in your tent forever! Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings!” (Psalm 61:1-4 ESV)
Let me also say this: If there is any place to fall when your life crumbles around you, fall on the Rock, Jesus Christ. When you land, whether it be from a mere accidental slip that just gets your hands dirty, or a hard fall like mine, there’s no better place to land.
I’ve fallen harder than when I fell on that rock in the canyon floor. I’ve had my life pulled out from underneath me. I have crashed to the depths of emotional despair. Each time I have fallen Jesus has been right there when I landed. I’ve been hurt. I’ve faced desperation. But because of Jesus, I have never been alone.
What path are you walking down right now? Where is your next step? Is it in the path of righteousness where God is leading you? Have you fallen along the way? If so, you are not alone and never will be.
“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” (John 10:14-18 ESV)
Recovery from My Fall
It’s been a long time since I have fallen this hard physically. I was immediately worried about my left knee because of how I landed on it. I was worried about my left hand and arm that had been caught up underneath me and took a lot of my weight. On the floor of the canyon wasn’t the place to find out the extent of my injuries. Getting out was the top priority. Kelly wanted me to sit down, but I knew I shouldn’t. Kelly couldn’t carry me, but she helped me keep going by making sure that I drank water on the way out, and had me eat some pretzel sticks as we walked.
When we got back to the car I finally took inventory of all my injuries. On my left elbow and left knee I was missing skin. The left elbow had a nearly perfect circular spot of “road rash.” My left knee had two spots of “road rash.” Even though I had on two layers of clothes on my upper torso and arms, and was wearing jeans because of the inclement weather, the friction from the impact still removed the top layer of dermis. We later found a bruise on my left knee that was almost a perfect rectangle. I had minor swelling in my left knee, but it never turned into a debilitating injury. I suffered no real damage to my left hand, elbow, or knee. I was sore for several days and had to take some Tylenol, but Kelly and I never stopped hiking. In fact, Kelly and I covered more miles the next day. We bought large size band aids and covered the scrapes with bacitracin ointment.
Folks, sometimes the crash is worse than the injuries. Sometimes the injuries pop up several days after a bad fall. Whatever the situation of your fall, know that even though your experience is unique to you, it isn’t a surprise to God. He knows the pain of injury from giving His life in exchange for yours to pay the penalty for sin. He knows when you’re hurting in body, mind, and spirit, and He cares about all of it.
“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” (Isaiah 31:21 NIV)
Prayer for When You’ve Fallen in Life and Feel You Can’t Get Up
If you need help because you’ve fallen on your path of life, then pray with me:
“Jesus, I have fallen so far and so hard, and I’m having trouble getting back up from where I fell. I need your help. I need you right where I am, because I’m hurt and alone in the darkness. Be my comfort and my guide out of the darkness and into the light. Heal my wounds, cover my scars, and hold me close. I’m so afraid of being alone where no one can find me; I need you to rescue me. I call on you, Jesus, to be my shepherd. Thank you for meeting me right where I am, and for answering my cry for help. In your name I pray, amen.”
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