“I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows).” (John 10:10 AMP)
Last week, in MOUTAIN TOP EXPERIENCES, Part 2, we discovered that it is in the “valleys” of life that we can best experience God’s power. But didn’t Jesus say that He came to bring us life abundant? How can all of these problems add up to an “abundant” life?
The summer of 2004 found my family on the northern peninsula of Newfoundland, preparing to climb Gros Morn. Our vacation agenda included hiking this 806 meter mountain, the highest peak in Eastern Canada, and there we were, at 2:00 in the afternoon, with about half a liter of water and a couple of oranges, setting out to fulfill our dream. Little did we know that it is an 18.3 km trek, and little did we know that hikers are advised to begin this climb in the morning to ensure adequate daylight, and to take plenty of food and water!
Sometimes ignorance is bliss!
We had hiked about 4 km when we came to a fork in the trail. To the right was a traditional path, winding around valleys and hills and meandering its way for five kilometers before reaching the summit. To the left, a rocky slope led straight up.
My husband, who had not yet developed his love of hiking, and our youngest son, who was only 9 at the time, made the wise choice at this point: They decided to return to the car and go for ice cream!
My older son, who, at age 11, was already a mountain goat at heart, turned pleading eyes in my direction. I instantly knew that he would not willingly return to the car.
Loath to break his heart, I stared at the two choices. The trail to the right didn’t look that rough, and it was only five kilometers to the top. Maybe … But that also meant five kilometers back as well, plus the other four we had already hiked, a total of fourteen more kilometers. There’s no way we could hike that far in the lingering hours of daylight!
Reluctantly my eyes went to the left. It would be a treacherous climb up all those loose rocks, but I could see the summit, and it wasn’t that far away!
“We can do it, mom!” Pleaded my son. “We’ll be back long before dark!”
And so we set out, and after just a few moments of huffing and puffing, my son and I crawled (literally!) To the top of the rise . . . Only to find . . . Another path just as long, over just as loose of rock, and even steeper than before, to a ridge high above! The “summit” we had seen from the valley below wasn’t the summit at all!
This pattern repeated itself several times, and it was nearly an hour later, about 5:00 p.m., when we finally attained the top of Gros Morn. We were exhausted, we had long ago used up our water, and the only quick way down was to sit on our bottoms and “slide” down those loose rocks. Not a very promising prospect!
Of course, there was always that other way, the little meandering trail that threaded its way down the mountain for five kilometers …
Needless to say, we took the “long way home”, but we did it in record time. The entire hike took us only 5½ hours, and we were back at the car long before dark.
Abundant life. Does it mean a nice little well-manicured trail that wanders through quiet woods, beside a cool, calm spring?
Friends, I’ve been over plenty of trails like this, and often they do lead to beautiful places. But any time I’ve ever tried to attain a mountain peak, the trail, when it exists, is steep, rocky, slippery, and, often enough, dangerous!
Is it worth it?
All I can say is this: It isn’t the view from the top of the mountain that I find exhilarating. It’s the fact that I’ve overcome steep trails and slippery slopes! It’s the fact that I’ve persevered over rock and crag! It’s the thrill of the climb that makes the view from the top all the more precious!
It’s the same in life. Abundant life doesn’t mean a life without problems. Rather, the mountain top experiences are made all the more precious by the fact that we’ve had to overcome those problems! That we’ve had to rely on God to get us through the valleys! Only then can we truly appreciate our mountain tops!
Yes, Jesus did say He came to give us abundant life. But He didn’t say that abundant life meant a life without problems. He simply said that it would be a full, overflowing life. Abundant life comes from relying on Jesus, not to take all of our problems away, but to carry us through them! Friends, with Jesus at our side, abundant life IS the climb!
So the next time we find ourselves in a “valley” experience, let’s not wish away our problems. Instead, let’s rely on Jesus to get us through. Then and only then will we experience true “abundance” in life, and only then will we fully appreciate the next mountain top!
Okay, that may be all fine and good. But really. Why do I have to spend most of my life in the valley? I mean, I don’t think I’ve been on a mountain top yet! Why, why, WHY???
If you can relate, then join us next week for MOUNTAIN TOP EXPERIENCES, Part 4: Climbing Mt. Washington.
(To access the entire “Mountain-Top Experiences” devotional series, please click here.)