Trail Blazes

My boys have been fond of camping since they were in grade school, and they still manage to go on at least a couple of outings every fall and spring. In fact, Jason just got home from a backpacking trip two weeks ago.

Backpacking  1984
Appalachian Trail

I’m not a big camper anymore, but when I was in college I did manage to go on a mountain adventure every now and then. I remember it being pretty fun to hike the Appalachian Trail and enjoy being up close and personal with nature. I’m pretty sure that most of my skills are completely rusted over now, but I do remember enough to know that back before GPS and a host of other electronic gadgets, serious hikers had to be keenly aware of the trail ‘blazes’ to keep their bearings.

hiking-trails-338457_1280To outdoorsmen, a “blaze” is a mark generally cut into or painted on a tree which is used to identify a trail. The symbols are usually of uniform size or color and are placed at regular intervals to help explorers be sure they are going in the right direction, and more importantly, that they are still on the correct path. And when the batteries fail in their GPS, these markers still serve hikers well. With a simple map in one hand and a compass in the other, backpackers can still reference these markings to help them know two things:

What their current location is and where they need to go next.

Believers need to always know those two things as well.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. ~ Psalm 119: 105

You know, it’d be great to have a few well-defined marks cut into a nearby tree to consult when God wants us to make a course change, but rarely are His directions that concrete. But at the same time, we aren’t just left to wander along life’s path and hope we’ll end up getting to where we need to be either.

signpost-60092_1280God has given us His written Word to function in a similar manner as those “blazes.” This black & white reference tool gives us an objective standard to help us take a regular assessment of where we are along the path of righteousness and what we need to do to stay there. It’s essential to train yourself to recognize those spiritual trail markers because the cost of missing an important turn and going off the path can be high. Even a short jaunt away from the designated trail can delay God’s purposes for your life for months or years. Sometimes markers are the clearly written “do’s and don’ts”; Other times they come in the form of the more subtle principles that are not as plainly stated. But with a little practice, you can learn to spot them and heed their guidance.

Remember that (as Psalm 119:105 says) the Bible isn’t usually a spotlight that illuminates the entire horizon. Instead, it’s a lamp that gives us just enough light to take the next step on the journey. That’s why we need to be prayerfully reading and absorbing God’s truth so that we can know Him better and be alert for His key blazes that signal crucial course changes.


I will lead the blind by ways they have not known,
 along unfamiliar paths I will guide them;
I will turn the darkness into light before them
 and make the rough places smooth.
These are the things I will do;
 I will not forsake them. ~ Isaiah 42: 16

15 thoughts on “Trail Blazes

  1. Thank you Karen for this beautiful encouragement. I like it that I saw this post just when I needed it. I like the way you bring out the need to let go and let God guide us through the turbulence of life by following His blazes. It is easy to fall by the wayside and follow the road of confusion.

    1. The road to confusion will always be the easier trail to follow. That’s why we have to stay exceptionally close to God through His Word. So glad you were encouraged, Grace. Blessings to you!

  2. Karen, thanks for a great piece. I liked the way you brought out the need to let go and let God guide us through the turbulence of life by following His blazes. It is easy to fall by the wayside and follow the road of confusion. You brought out how great God’s wisdom is when we read the writing on the wall,

  3. As always Karen, I enjoyed not only reading your POSTS, but enjoy the thought process behind the words in print.
    TRAIL BLAZING, as you mentioned in your life now, seems to have been put aside except for memories. And at my age, that’s a good thing! But life’s ever changing directions can sometimes lead us on the wrong path [John Bunyan’s”Pilgrims Progress”].
    The Bible clearly states how to use His spiritual compass (“GPS): “But when He, the spirit of Truth (the Truth-giving Spirit) comes, He will GUIDE you into all the Truth. For He will not speak His own message [on His own authority]; but He will TELL whatever He hears [from the Father; He will GIVE the message that has been given Him], and He will ANNOUNCE and DECLARE to you the things that are to come [that will happen in the future]” (John 16:13 AMP). Wow, our own personal travel guide.

  4. Karen, I used to quote Psalm 119:105 all the time during times of uncertainty and it’s almost as if I’d forgotten about it. I’m in need of this scripture during this season of my life and your post is a reminder that God has provided me with the tools necessary to walk out this faith journey, one faithful step at a time.
    Thank you 🙂

    1. I’m so glad that God used this to remind you of His promise to lead and guide you. I’ve been mediating on Ps 25:4-5 and know that He intends to instruct us, not only in what to do every day, but, more specifically, in how we can better know Him! Thanks for reading!

    1. Hey, Andrew. Thanks for the comment. I’m not sure where we disagree. God’s Word definitely functions in a variety of ways including being a warning sign, a stop sign, a yield signal, as well as an encouragement to steadily keep going if we are already on God’s pathway. And I wholeheartedly agree that when Scripture gives you a warning, the ONLY thing to do is to obey quickly and precisely!!

      1. In Matthew 7:7-8, it says: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” But if the light is a SIGN, God will be a warning.

        Have a nice day! 🙂

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