I recently went hiking for the first time in quite a while. I quickly discovered my body was not used to hills or steep inclines, and I found my lungs panting for air, my heart racing, and the weight of my body becoming heavier with each uphill step.

It felt pretty similar to this whole year, actually – we are surrounded by a virus that literally threatens our very breath, increases our anxiety and fear, and makes our bodies feel heavier with each day of the constant uphill climb of 2020.

As I walked uphill, desperately yearning for the summit, I heard what I thought was rushing water nearby. I took it as encouragement that my upward climb was almost over, and I was finally close to the end (well, the end of the uphill part, anyway).

When my path flattened, I discovered a bench with a view of mountains in the distance. I stopped for a desperate drink of water and to sit and catch my breath.

I sat on the bench, closed my eyes, and remained silent before repeating the mantra from my morning meditation from Psalm 118:24, “This is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.” I repeated it every few seconds with long pauses of silence as I listened pensively.

I opened my eyes to discover that what I thought was the sound of rushing water was actually the sound of rustling leaves in the treetops. They appeared to be in full applause, shouting praise to their Creator – “This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it!”

In my arduous uphill climb, my focus centered on my heavy breath, my racing heartbeat, and the words “one, two; one, two,” repeated with every two-step. I could only concentrate on my feet and nothing else. The end was nowhere in sight. I did not make it to the tippy-top of the mountain for the most awe-inspiring view, but that didn’t matter.

I discovered that when I stopped, when I took the time to catch my breath and become still, when I listened, I discovered that all of creation was singing God’s praises.

You don’t have to reach the summit or even go to the mountains to rediscover that the Creator of the universe is in control. You need only be still and join in the joyful singing of all the earth (Psalm 98).

Stephanie Dion is an associate pastor at Lowcountry Presbyterian Church in Bluffton. LowcountryPres.org