In 1803 President Thomas Jefferson sent Lewis and Clark and a Corps of men to follow the Missouri River westward hoping to find an overland route to the Pacific Ocean. Their successful two year trip opened the West to trappers and the westward migration of America.
Several years after their trip, seven native Americans (aka Indians) showed up in St. Louis, MO seeking Bibles. They had learned about the Bible from the Christians in the Lewis and Clark expedition. The native Americans attributed the white man’s “power” (technological advances), to this mysterious book. Clark was able to provide the Indians with Bibles, but unfortunately they all died prior to returning to their tribes.
When word reached the churches in the East about these Indians wanting Bibles, there arose a missionary zeal to evangelize the western Indians. In July, 1836, missionaries Marcus and Narcissa Whitman and Henry and Eliza Spalding attended a trapper’s rendevous on the Green River, where they were paired with western tribes.
Whitman settled in what is now southeastern Washington state among the Cayuse and Nez Perce tribes, six miles from Walla Walla. Years later, Whitman found it necessary to return by horse to the east coast to address mission matters. This was at the same time the wagon trains were beginning to make their way westward to Oregon, California and Washington. While in the east, Whitman was sought out by the wagon train leaders for his experience traversing the wilderness. Of course, the leader’s greatest concern was how to deal with the Indians they would encounter, but Whitman had more important instructions for them.
“Travel, travel, travel; nothing else will take you to the end of your journey; nothing is wise that does not help you along; nothing is good for you that causes a moment delay.” “A day spent enjoying prairie flowers may cost you your life in the snow covered mountains.” Marcus Whitman
There is wisdom here for we Christians. It is this:
No matter what happens in your life, keep traveling on toward your new heavenly home. Do not let any trial stop you.
When someone died on the wagon trains, some would bury the dead at night in the wagon path, so the grave would not be noticeable to the ever watching Indians. They did not spend days in mourning or have a proper funeral.
The pioneers had to keep the big picture in mind. They had a very long way to go by foot, horse, mule and wagon. It was up to them to keep moving and not focus on the loss or they could experienced a far greater loss of life.
In our Christian walk, we may experience the “death” of many things:
- Maybe the premature death of a career;
- Maybe the future we envisioned will have to die;
- Maybe our self-image will die due to revelations from God’s Word;
- Future plans for our children may have to die, due to unforeseen problems;
- Maybe we lose a loved one to some seemingly unfair disease or tragedy;
- We may experience a loss of our health or our spouses health;
- Our finances may tank and we find ourselves in financial straits;
- Some may experience the death of friendships they highly value;
- It may be physical torture, imprisonment or death for our Christian faith.
Whatever the “death” or hardship may be, we need to keep the big picture in mind. We are just a pilgrims passing through the devil’s kingdom, on the way to the heavenly Jerusalem. Keep trusting in Jesus and His Word. Keep pressing on in Him, until you arrive in His physical Presence. He said He would never leave or forsake us. The Comforter is always with us.
In closing, I am reminded of an elderly sister in the Lord, who lived in communist Lithuania. She had a chronic disease that paralyzed her total body except for one finger. The secret police never searched her home due to her condition. She used this safe setting to translate Christian books from U.S. and western Europe into her mother tongue, for her fellow countrymen. She typed them out one letter at a time with that one finger that was not paralyzed. She had experienced the “death” of her health but she kept pressing on in her Lord and as a result, was a tremendous blessing to her brother and sisters-in-Christ under the yoke of atheistic communism.
Let us keep pressing on in spite of whatever comes our way. We do not know what the future holds, but we do know Who holds the future and has us in His hands.
In addition, let us be sensitive to the needs of our brothers and sisters who are going through trials and the valley of death. Paul said we should consider others more important than ourselves. Let the words of Hebrews 3:13 direct us:
“…encourage one another day after day as long as it is still called “Today”…”
To “encourage” someone means to “to give courage; the attitude or response of facing and dealing with anything recognized as dangerous, difficult or painful, instead of withdrawing from it” (Webster). Lovingly give courage to them that are going through trials and the valley of death.
Peace to all,