For many years, one of our favorite vacation areas has been the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In fact, we recently returned from a week’s stay in this area.

I like the green fields of Cades Cove. But I also at times enjoy the challenges of trails like that leading to the rock formation known as “The Chimneys.” Although there are few places on this trail that I consider extremely steep, the gradual yet continuous incline still reminds me that I am more accustomed to walking on level ground than on mountain trails.

But even relatively level ground presents challenges that perhaps, in their own way, require a like degree of stamina — if not physical, certainly emotional and spiritual.

Most people, and certainly those of us who call western Kentucky home, don’t have to contend daily with high elevations and mountain trails. But it isn’t the challenges of the mountains that bring the greatest tests, but rather the little hills — that is, the slight and at times almost undetectable irregularities of life that demand immediate discernment and the calling forth of the best we have to offer as human beings and as Christians.

Take, for example, the disagreements we have with others … usually not over large and weighty matters, but small, short-term subjects which will — or should — be of no lasting concern once they are behind us. Or what about the unexpected obstacles to our daily routines? Do we perceive them as boulders in our pathway or simply a few rocks to sidestep as we continue our journey?

Or consider the little hill that is called by a variety of names: mistakes, errors of judgment, sin. Does this cause us languish and a total depletion of our spiritual reserves, or are we able, by God’s grace, to put this little hill behind us, covering it with God’s rightness and forgiveness?

A mountain trail can certainly be breathtaking in more ways than one. But it is the little hills that present the greatest test of our identity and conditioning as children of God. And our faith tells us that God stands ready to provide that extra degree of direction and energy that can make all the difference in the world when it comes to making it to the top where we can once again breathe deeply and enjoy the freshness of victorious living.

What little hills are you facing today? Have you asked God for the spiritual resources needed to meet these challenges?

Steve McVay is pastor at Saratoga United Methodist Church in Eddyville. His opinions are his own and not necessarily those of this newspaper.

Steve McVay is pastor at Saratoga United Methodist Church in Eddyville. His opinions are his own and not necessarily those of this newspaper.