On the Long Trail… Laughing at Myself

Summer 2012 031

I’ve laughed at myself a lot over the past week. Last week, I wrote about the role of joy in getting through hard times and the importance of embracing joy when things are going wrong. And it just seems that ever since I clicked, “publish” on that post, I’ve been tested on it. Stresses and worries have arrived by the boatload while joy and peace have been increasingly elusive.

But there has been hope – thanks in part to Margaret Feinberg:

Most days rejoicing didn’t make us feel better. Some moments buoyed our spirits, and laced us with smiles that attracted new friends. More often, it opened a floodgate of tears. Joy is an action, regardless of what our emotions reveal. (ebook location 1123, emphasis mine)

As Sara Frankl often said, we choose joy. Especially in the hard, painful times.

It’s kind of a silly analogy, but it works for me… let’s flash back to one particular long trail

A couple of years ago, I hiked 8-ish miles with a group of my friends through some extremely beautiful, but fairly challenging terrain. I laugh now because I think back to when we first started out on the trail. I was fairly bouncy and spent most of the first couple of miles at the head of the pack. I felt good. I was breathing deeply. I felt alive…

I would say that the first half of the hike, I was doing very well. Moving quickly. In no pain. But as the trail stretched onward and upward, I became more aware that I was pushing the boundaries of my limitations. I was getting tired. I was beginning to hurt. And the end was nowhere in sight.

And then, my friend’s 7-year-old daughter – full of energy – dropped back on the trail to take my hand. She didn’t want me to feel alone or be left behind. And after a while, when she was distracted and wandered away, my other friends began to take turns coming back to encourage me – to take my hand or walk with me. We would top a hill or round a corner, and the rest of the group would be there waiting.

This is how life is supposed to be, you know. We take the journey, helping each other along. We give a hand where it’s needed. We pass around our trail mix and water – sharing what we have with the others who need. And we enjoy the trail together – each at our own pace – but together.

I don’t regret it. I learned lessons and saw the love of God, working in my life, through some of the people I love the most. It taught me lessons about loving better, sharing more, and being more of an encouragement, that I wouldn’t have learned if I’d avoided the long, hard trail. It made the trail and the pain worth it.

This post is part of a weekly book discussion on Margaret Feinberg’s “Fight Back With Joy.” You don’t have to read the book to take part in the discussion. If you have written a response to this week’s chapter, please drop by my co-facilitator’s place to link up at the widget.

About Sarah Salter


  1. Barbara Capps says:

    Been up some of those trails too.. With Johnny hollering back, ” you coming today or tomorrow mama”? But the fun part was doing it together.. like you said.

  2. Sarah Salter says:

    Capps, LOL! I can hear Johnny hollerin’ that, too. 😛

  3. Great points, Sarah. I think sometimes we resist because we think it’s a “fake it ’til you make it” type of thing. I’m going to act happy even though I’m miserable, but that’s not it. We’re making a choice and though it may lead to laughter or tears, it’s all cleansing. We need the cleansing, but we also have to make that choice. Good stuff, my friend. Thank you. 🙂

  4. Sarah Salter says:

    Jason, this is a good conversation for us to have… I’m involved right now with friends at both ends of the spectrum… I think there’s a fine line… If I’m seriously suffering — say with a sickness (which I’m not, but as an example) — and someone asks me how I’m doing and I don’t hint at the suffering, but simply tell people how wonderful and blessed I am, am I really being honest? Yes, I’m wonderful and blessed — at all times — even in suffering. BUT by not allowing people to see the suffering behind the blessing, I’m keeping the testimony from them AND I’m keeping them out of the position to be used by God towards healing me. (Did that make sense, at all?) But where is that line drawn?

  5. I do see what you’re saying, Sarah. I guess I don’t see it as the same thing though. I’m definitely not a proponent of “keep it all inside” and pretend. Drives me crazy! It’s not faith to deny anything bad is happening. Faith sees beyond and trusts God anyway. I guess what I was more talking about was sometimes my feeling wouldn’t lend itself to gratitude or finding a way to rejoice. I might resist expressing joy in some way because I don’t “feel” it–as if it’s disingenuous in some way. But as Paul said about finding contentment whether in plenty or in lack, it takes an act of the will. I get to make a choice to see joy and express that to myself and others. Does that make sense? Knowing when and with whom to share the difficult things–that’s a whole ‘nother conversation, but you know all about that. 🙂

  6. Sarah Salter says:

    Jason, I think the reason I seized on that aspect of your comment is because it’s very close to home right now. Not as much for me (though it has been in the past), but for friends I’m watching suffer. I have one particular friend who is almost sick unto death, but she won’t let anybody know it and won’t ask for help because she feels that to do so would be a lack in faith on her part. Balance has never been a particular strength of mine, but watching my friend suffer in silence has been a very educational experience for me. I’m not thinking that she needs to tell all of her problems in their gory details to the entire world — or even the entire church — but just ONE trustworthy person who is in a position to help her…

  7. In response– yes, exactly! We’re called to share our burdens so we can carry together. We can’t fulfill the call to mourn with those who mourn if that’s not something ever shared. Hard sometimes to do (I know from experience), but needed.

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