I hike a few times each week on the woodland trails above our home. I will occasionally turn around and check my backtrail. I do this for a reason.
The cougar population in Oregon has increased at an alarming rate since legislation went into place, limiting the ability to manage the cougar population. One report said before the legislation went into place, the cougar population was 1,500. Now it exceeds 5,000. Because cougars hunt in personal terrain, this has pushed young, inexperienced cougars and old and sick ones into more populated areas in search of food. Each time I see a hand-drawn poster for a missing pet, I wonder. Just last week, a local friend posted a photo on Facebook of a group of four cougars walking down a gravel driveway.
It always amazes me how situationally unaware some people are walking in a forest with earbuds on listening to music or a lecture oblivious to their surroundings. The same is true on city streets where even more dangerous predators walk upright on two legs.
There is a spiritual application for what I just shared. Not every dangerous spiritual encounter is ahead of us. Some will approach us from our backtrail, waiting for an opportune moment to attack. These attacks can be in the form of a lie that says we are unworthy of forgiveness since we just committed the same sin again after asking forgiveness. Other lies slink up behind us to tell us our failed past will become the pavement on the road leading to our future. Lies are opportunists that take advantage of our unbelief.
Some of us need to do what forest service personnel advise hikers to do when they encounter a cougar. Raise your arms, shout loudly, and slowly back away. The goal is to make yourself look big and too large a threat for the cougar to engage. The worst thing to do is run.
In the realm of the Spirit, we call this faith. It is faith in the One who stands beside us as our Redeemer. He makes us strong and courageous and spiritually large because He paid the price for everything. That payment includes defanging the lie currently trailing behind us trying to find an opportune moment of personal weakness and disbelief to pounce on us and sink the fangs of a lie deep within our soul.
Today, turn around from time-to-time and check your backtrail. If you see a lie, shout at it in faith, and get big in Jesus. In that moment of confrontation, you will see the lie scurry off into the forest. Enjoy your hike.