“The praise and glorification of God doesn’t exclusively spring from deep and untroubled understanding; it is in spite of – and even because of – deep and troubled circumstance.” Joyce Rachelle
I tend to cling to the mountaintops of life. I love the view, the fresh air, the feeling of being so high up above my daily issues. I can regain my focus on the mountaintop, recalibrate my life, my goals, and my attitude. The mountaintop is a sanctuary, safe from crisis and anxiety and the complexities of life. It is a place to grow closer to God…
Many of us cling to the mountaintop as if it were a place for us to dwell infinitely. And why wouldn’t we? There’s little to worry about on the mountaintop. We can see the whole picture of life, unhindered by our own narrow tunnel vision of life and all of its difficulties.
But in reality, the mountaintop is no place to dwell for long. Yes, we can grow closer to God on the mountaintop, but that’s not the only place we grow, and it’s not the only place to deconstruct God’s character. In fact, we need crisis, we need difficulty, we need challenges to help us grow, not just closer to God, but in ourselves. To grow physically, mentally, spiritually.
Many years ago, I lived with a group of five guys in a house on the outskirts of Modesto, California. The leader of the house had one major rule: we all had to set aside an hour each night to stop and read the Bible and have quiet time with God. It was a good exercise in spiritual discipline, and it definitely helped me in my spiritual walk.
But there was one particular evening that changed everything. I remember reading through 1 Kings, about King David. When I was finished reading, I set my Bible down and just sat there on the couch, immersed in deep thought about my devotional.
The leader of the house approached me and asked why my Bible wasn’t opened and why I wasn’t reading it. I told him I read what I needed to read for the day, and that I was pondering the verses I had read. He told me to open my Bible and to continue reading until the hour was up.
He became somewhat irate. He told me that it was the rule of the house.
I refused again, reiterating that I had already gotten my spiritual fill from what I had read, and that I just wanted some quiet time. I reminded him that I wasn’t bothering anyone else, and that I was still using the remainder of the hour toward the principle of devotional time.
He became more irate. He threatened to kick me out if I didn’t follow his orders. He made a side comment about how if we had the chance, we should all be reading the Bible 24/7.
I engaged him with a question: If we were able to read the Bible 24/7 – and if we did so – how would we apply what we’ve read? I mentioned that the Bible wasn’t meant to be our escape from this reality, that reading it 24/7 without any application would be mostly fruitless. Yes, it would fill us with knowledge, and it would probably help us to know some of God’s facets a little better, but if we didn’t give God the chance to test us in what we were reading, to instill the values within us, what was the point?
I was summarily kicked out of the house.
I don’t blame the guy – completely. It is human nature to want to hide from the troubles of the world, to stay in a ‘safe’ place, to veer away from the shadows.
I tend to do this myself. I hate conflict. I hate crisis. I hate anything that breaks my routine, that disturbs my peace.
My car breaks down. My rent is increased. My friend wounds me. My day just doesn’t go according to (my) plan.
But I’m learning to embrace change, to embrace difficulty, to embrace challenge – even if I can’t bring myself to show affection towards it. I grab it by the arm and pull it close, and then I deal with it. This is how we learn, how we grow, how we apply everything we’ve learned in this life.
It’s easy to avert our eyes, our ears, and our touch from the things that challenge us, that disturb our peace. But it’s those very things that help us move through the valley to our next stop on the mountaintop.