When time and circumstance allow, I like to hike up, over, and around the hills in the area as a way to be alone with my thoughts. I keep a small daypack at the ready so that I can pretty much just grab it and go. I leave the pack stocked with a small variety of just-in-case essentials, including a small first aid kit, a tiny flashlight, a compact windbreaker, and a few fistfuls of trail food—most of which I never use and should not need while traversing familiar, local trails so close to home. The real purpose for the daypack is to carry my Camelbak hydration unit, which is a fancy way to say a 2-liter, over-the-shoulder canteen. That item I use every time.
If I were to hike in actual wilderness, I would surely pack more thoughtfully and carry a bigger pack, but even then the most critical item would be the water. Even if I found myself hopelessly lost, miles from the trailhead, I could blister up, break a bone, run out of food, and bivouac under a saguaro for weeks if I had to; but if I ran out of water I’d be in major trouble within hours regardless of how much moleskin and trail mix I had on hand.
Although I’m not exactly what anyone would consider a rugged outdoorsman, I am smart enough to know that if I were to head out on a distant trek I should carry plenty of water with me and ensure that I have a clear idea of where I can obtain more along the way—especially if I know I will be wandering into unfamiliar lands without clearly marked trails. And I would not, under any circumstances, forgo water unless compelled to do so. Water is perhaps the only essential. Water is life.
Now hold that thought as you consider the following: It doesn’t take a whole lot of imagination to see mortality as the ultimate through-hike—a long-distance slog up, over, and around all kinds of hills and other obstacles. In that sense, Alma probably had it right when he called us “wanderers in a strange land” (Alma 13:23). Usually the trail is clearly marked, but certainly there are times when we amble off and suddenly find ourselves bushwhacking, unsure of where we’re headed. No matter how well-equipped we may think we are, eventually we may find ourselves tired, discouraged, and increasingly thirsty, muttering to ourselves through cracked and bleeding lips: Must. Find. Water.
And well we might ask: As we go along through the various peaks and valleys of life, when we wander off-trail, or when we stumble and find ourselves disoriented and unable to find our bearings, how long will our reserves hold out? What should we do if our canteens run dry? Where, in this journey from birth to death, do we find water along the way?
The scriptures have the answer. In Jeremiah, Jehovah declares himself to be “the fountain of living waters” (Jeremiah 2:13)—a lesson reiterated and magnified by Jesus when He taught: “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14). He is saying, in essence, that we cannot live without Him. Literally. When Jesus taught that He is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), He further emphasized that point. Jesus = Water. Water = Life. Jesus = Life.
With Him, you will not thirst, you cannot run dry. So take it from one who knows: Should you feel inclined, now or at any time, to wander off the trail, please make sure you take Water along for the journey. You will surely need it.