I recently had the opportunity to attend a ministry conference in Riverside, California—about 30 miles east of Los Angeles. I was warned that it would be hot and dry, and indeed it was for two of the three full days I was there. That didn’t deter me from taking my hiking boots and poles so I could get out for a hike on the free afternoons.

The first afternoon hike was good exercise, but not a particularly “nice” hike. The heat and lack of humidity made for quite a challenge in itself. And the trail was a constant uphill climb for a couple miles. But what made it most difficult was just how brown, dusty, and (to be kind) unattractive it was. When I arrived at the summit, looking out across the horizon provided some beautiful relief, but I had to put out of my mind the half dozen or so transmitting towers behind me. Wasn’t the best hike I’ve ever done.

The next afternoon, however, was far more rewarding. I drove about an hour into the San Bernardino mountains to Big Bear Lake. Since the elevation at the trail head was about 7,000 feet—as opposed to the 800 ft elevation of Riverside—it was considerably cooler (82 degrees) than the near 100-degree temps at the lower elevation. And whereas the hike the day before was barren of any vegetation, this trail was through an abundance of pines—not to mention the frequent views of the lake as I made the ascent. So while it was more comfortable, the air was still arid and thirst came quickly and often. I anticipated that and brought a couple bottles of water, but I passed someone along the trail who didn’t seem to be carrying any. It didn’t strike me until later, or I would’ve offered some of mine.

Anyway, this trail was a little over two miles up the mountain and intersected the Pacific Crest Trail, a nearly 2,700 mile north-south trail that extends from the California-Mexico border to Canada. I’ve never been on the trail, but have read about those who’ve through-hiked it and seen a video “hike-alogue.” Other than the 100+ miles of desert in southern California, it looks like a beautiful trail. I was somewhat eager to get to that intersection and at least see if there was a sign for the PCT. Indeed, there was.

But there was more. About 25 feet from the intersection of the two trails, underneath a tree in the shade, were three large containers of water. I recognized right away that this was “trail magic.” Someone, somewhere, out of the kindness and thoughtfulness of their heart made the effort to carry those bottles up the trail and leave them for a weary, thirsty hiker whose water bottle had been drained dry. Grace, we call that. It reminded me of the grace of Jesus, offered to the thirsty Samaritan woman at the well of Sychar. He promised her that if she drank of the water of life that he offered, she’d never thirst again. After some back and forth, she drank and couldn’t contain her enthusiasm for Jesus and his grace.

And then I thought of a passage from Isaiah, again replete with expressions of God’s grace:

But now hear, O Jacob my servant, Israel whom I have chosen! Thus says the Lord who made you, who formed you from the womb and will help you: Fear not, O Jacob my servant, Jeshurun whom I have chosen. For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. They shall spring up among the grass like willows by flowing streams. (Isaiah 44:1-4).

There’s no “magic” here—the sovereign, gracious God chooses to work in behalf of parched, weary, sin-burdened travelers on the trail of life. Choosing, helping, pouring out His Spirit, blessing…all from the hand of God working behind the scenes to bless His people.

As you journey along this life-long trek, I trust you’re looking for and discovering the “trail magic”—the wonderful expressions of God’s grace along the way. I trust you’ve come to Jesus to drink of the “water of life” He so graciously, abundantly provides.