I just finished reading, “Hiking Through: One Man’s Journey to Peace and Freedom on the Appalachian Trail, by Paul Stutzman. After his wife died, Mr. Stutzman decided to walk the whole of the Appaachian Trail. It’s a wonderful book of his walk. He saw great beauty, met wonderful people and went through dangerous and difficult days.
One of his aims was to get closer to God and try to understand why his wife had died. I don’t think he will mind if I share the account of his meeting with God near the end of his trek. Here is the excerpt:
As I had done countless times before, I asked God why he had taken Mary. “Do you realize the loneliness, the grief, the hurt we’ve endured without her?” A soft voice spoke in my spirit. Paul, I’m coming soon.
“What? What are you saying?” I asked in bewilderment. I am coming soon.
“You’re coming soon,” I repeated. “Yes, I’ve read that in the Bible and many people have said that for many years, and nothing has happened.” My tears started. “Did you take my wife away from me and ask me to give up my job so you and I could meet on this mountaintop and you could tell me this?”
If that were true, then God truly was in control of my life. He had been there all the time during Mary’s sickness.
“But why are you giving me this message? Scriptures say no human can know the actual time you’ll be returning, and your ‘soon’ in Scriptures has already been several thousand years. Why are you telling me this now?”
Paul, I want you to take this message to others. I am coming soon.
“Oh no, not me, God! You’ve got the wrong man. That’s not for me to do. That’s a message for ministers to deliver,” I argued. “I’m a scoundrel. Don’t you remember that silly naked hike?”
But you are my scoundrel. You’ll reach people that ministers will never reach.
“How’s that going to work? How am I going to reach anyone?”
You’re writing a book aren’t you? Put this message in your book.
“Oh my goodness, God. Now you’re messing with my book too!”
I’ll get it into the hands of people who need to hear my message.
“But everyone will think I’m crazy,” I sputtered.
Yet I could not ignore everything God had been teaching me on this hike. Did I really believe the things I said I believed? Did I believe God told Pilgrim to let his hair grow long? Wasn’t I telling folks that God would speak? Hadn’t I admired the bravery of those farmers in Shay’s Rebellion? What about my courage? In the face of probable ridicule, would I sink into cowardice?
So, I was a scoundrel; I might as well also be a fool for God.
Our conversation had brought me to the top of Eph’s Lookout. I dropped my pack and fell facedown on the rocks, weeping. “God, if that’s the message you want delivered, I’ll do it.”
I stood up, picked up my pack, and took in the surrounding views. Four little words brought me freedom, like new life breathed into me. I am coming soon. It is a message from God that assures me he is in control. There is so much anger and hatred everywhere, and greed and corruption are out of control. But nothing that happens is a surprise to God; He is right on schedule – his schedule.
To everyone who wonders what this world is coming to, God says, I am coming soon.
God is not telling us to sit around and waste our time waiting. He doesn’t operate on our timetable. I am coming soon is a message to live, a message of healing and a message of peace. When all around you is despair and chaos, God is in control and will be your refuge and fortress if you trust him.
I am coming soon. That message gave me new hope. When I was a teenager, those words struck me with fear and despair whenever I heard them; now they filled me with comfort and peace. I knew I was free at last from my guilty bondage to dos and don’ts. I knew Mary was okay, and I knew I was going to be okay. It was almost as if I could hear her say, “Paul, live!”