I’m writing this post on a day when two family members are climbing Mt. Rainier. It’s an undertaking they’ve been excited about. One I’m not thrilled with. Needless to say, I’ve been thinking about mountains more than usual.
A few days ago I woke with a phrase on my mind: When the mountain is steep, and God feels far. When phrases such as this one come to my mind I take note. Most often, God is about to teach me something, giving me something to teach or prompting me to write. Sometimes it’s all three. Foremost, He always has something to teach me. This time I think He’s giving me a deeper way to relate to Him. I think He might have a word for someone who reads this as well.
The circumstances in my life haven’t felt insurmountable, and God hasn’t felt far. Yet pondering the phrase has been just what I’ve needed for the gentle slope I’m on. And honestly, I don’t learn well in “steep” moments.
Let me say up front, this post is FAR from comprehensive. I’m still pondering many thoughts. I hope it will get you thinking as well.
What can we do when the circumstances of our lives feel treacherously steep, and God feels painfully far?
Quickly and repeatedly, we should recall God’s faithful provision on past “climbs.” The life of a Christian is a walk of faith. There are things in this life we will never understand. We are called to be “confident of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see (Hebrews 11:1). The very nature of faith is to move forward, keep climbing, even when we don’t feel or see or understand. A mountain climber gains confidence to cross a difficult impasse by recalling the one’s they’ve successfully navigated in the past. We can be confident and certain about is the faithfulness of God.
It’s also wise to take a break, sit with God and ask: What’s frightening, overwhelming, frustrating, irritating…me about this part of the ‘climb’? Give God the opportunity to reveal what’s REALLY going on inside of you. This part is challenging for me. I’d rather deny the negative emotions, lunge forward and get the difficult impasse behind me. But in doing so, we miss the lessons we’re supposed to learn, ones that will equip us for future climbs. Lessons we might one day use to encourage someone else. And, as you’ll see below, we miss the point of the climb.
Recently I took some time and asked God to illuminate the nature of the emotions going on inside of me. I didn’t want this time to be excessively self-focused. There was a higher goal in mind. Whatever is going on inside of us needs to be considered alongside the truth of who God is and why we are here. As I undertook this exercise. I asked God to bring any hidden thoughts and feelings to the surface. He did. They started to flow, and I started to write. Out came dreams. Out came frustration. At the end of two pages, I was left with the most beautiful conclusion: God! He’s on the mountain, as well as the gentle slope. He’s not far. In fact, He’s as close and involved as we’ll invite Him to be.
I saw my fear in light of who God is. My frustrations paled in comparison to the opportunity they afforded to know Him better. I realized that the terrain I often seek to avoid or rush over is the exact route needed to grow closer to God. As a mountain climber experiences great exhilaration when a crevasse is crossed, we, too, have the thrill of knowing God in new, and often much deeper, ways as we climb the difficult terrain of life.
I’d like to make one more suggestion. When the mountain feels steep and God feels far lift your eyes off the trail and take a long look at the beauty and majesty of a literal mountain. The God who formed, placed and sustains that mountain also formed, placed and will sustain you. He sees you. He is with you.