Is God still relevant in our lives? Does God see the struggles and trials many families go through? Does God have a reason for allowing his children to walk through deep valleys of despair? These are all fair questions.
Does God even have a place in today’s world? The leaders of our country don’t seem too interested in seeking God’s guidance in leading this country. Our school systems have tried to remove God from our classrooms. Wait–these two entities don’t seem to be working too well right now. Perhaps we do need divine guidance after all.
As it is for many of you, my life was rolling merrily along. My wife Mary and I had been married 32 years, we had three wonderful children and I enjoyed my job. Sure, like many of you I had house payments, college payments, and the usual job-related stresses. My world was suddenly turned upside down when my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. Although we did everything possible to fight the disease and believed that God could heal her, on September 7, 2006, she took her last breath and passed away. Either God had not heard our desperate cry for healing, or He had other plans for our lives.
I wanted to know why God put our family through this heartbreaking time, and my questioning led to a radical decision. For years I had dreamed about hiking the Appalachian Trail; and a little more than a year after Mary’s death, I decided to quit my job, shoulder a backpack, and hike close to 2,200 miles from Georgia to Maine. My
plan was to write a book about this adventure with a message for men not to take their spouses and families for granted.
As I hiked north, I began talking with God as if he was my hiking partner. Repeatedly, I would ask God why he took my wife from me. On Sunday morning, July 6, 2008, while hiking towards Eph’s Lookout in Massachusetts, I had an encounter with God that left me face down, weeping on the trail. God revealed to me why he took my spouse from me.
You, my friend, were also included in that encounter. You wonder how that is possible? God asked me to include the message of that encounter in my book. I admit, I argued with God. I was certain folks would think I was crazy and the book would not sell. God’s reply
was, “I’ll get it into the hands of people who need to hear this message.”
That encounter with God completely changed my life and set me on a path to healing from my grief. I pray that the message of hope brings you peace in this troubled time we live in.
After Paul Stutzman’s wife died, Paul quit his job to hike the Appalachian trail to give himself time to think and to heal. Hiking Through: Finding Peace and Freedom on the Appalachian Trail is his story. A former restaurant manager, he is now retired and planning his next big adventure: a cross-country bicycle trip. Stutzman currently lives in Berlin, Ohio. To see pictures of his hike or to find out more about Paul and his book, visit his website at www.hikingthrough.com.
Paul is on virtual book tour during March and April 2010. If you’d like to find out more about his journey, visit his official tour page here.