Over 30 years have passed since I hiked the woods near our house with my then eight-year-old son, Ryan. This is a beautiful area on hills leading down to a creek below. Ryan started calling it “the Forest of Darkness” because of the dense and tall cedar trees where sunlight did not readily shine through. Now here I was again, years later, hiking through “the Forest of Darkness” with two of Ryan’s children, Sophia, age six, and Ethan, age four!
Ethan was scared as we entered that grove. He began to cling to me and at times grabbed hold of my leg. When not holding on to me, he kept looking at me so as to never let me out of his sight. He didn’t want to get lost. On one occasion he said, “Don’t leave me.” I, of course, would have never even thought of leaving him there. As long as he could see me and follow me, all was okay.
Ethan was showing me something about how a true Christian should be. We can all learn something from his attitude on that day. We, too, are walking through a frightening place where it is possible to get lost and spiritually die. Deuteronomy 8 also describes this walk.
It can be easy to forget what a dangerous walk we are involved in. When we were new to Christianity, we feared the possibility of falling and being left out of the Kingdom of God. Complacency can take hold so we no longer think about being bitten by venomous snakes who inject poison into our spiritual bodies. Satan and his demons are compared to snakes. They can send fiery darts at us which enter our thinking and tempt us (Ephesians 6:10-16). How many times have we had ungodly thoughts and dwelled upon them, not grasping that those were injected into us by venomous demons?
My grandchildren would have become lost had they not known their need and were I not there to look after them. I knew the way through that forest and they did not. If we have only self-reliance we can’t make it. We also need someone to look after us (Hebrews 12:1-3).
We do have someone who knows the ropes; who has been there in the woods before us, and who has shepherded an untold number of people through the great and terrible wilderness before us. And Jesus cares! He will no more walk off and leave our Father’s needy children than I would have left my grandchildren in the woods. God will never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).
God won’t quit on us or leave us stranded in the woods, and we need to keep our eyes on him and be humble about knowing our need. There is so much we can learn from children. They illustrate total dependence, full trust, openness, and complete sincerity. Adults are moved to see that kind of trust, humility, and dependence. It also moves God when we cast ourselves upon him and pray with fervency, “Don’t go off and leave me! I have a lot to be scared of in this forest.”