Four summers ago, my family and I had the privilege of visiting Alaska. We had a lovely trip, only slightly “dampened” by the fact that it rained the entire time we were in this amazing state.
While visiting Juneau, the capital of Alaska, we had the opportunity to climb Mt. Roberts, a peak of 3,819 feet. A tramway took us up to the 1,760 foot mark, but from there, we set out on a 3 mile footpath to the summit.
What we had begun to call “the Alaskan drizzle” was with us, and we hadn’t gone far before this, plus the shifting fog, began making our steps treacherous. After slipping and sliding for about 2 miles, the trail became partially covered by large patches of snow. Another half a mile and it became composed of steep granite. The rock would have been slippery even on a dry day, and with our ever-present drizzle, the stone might as well have been a hockey rink!
We forged ahead anyway for a few hundred feet, but then we finally woke up to the fact that if we ever made it UP this trail, we would likely not make it DOWN safely.
It was a hard decision, but with just another half mile to go, we turned back.
My boys, 12 and 14 at the time, were not exactly in agreement with our plan. In fact, they became very frustrated. Frustrated at the rain, frustrated at the slippery granite, and mostly, frustrated at their parents.
On our way back down the mountain, we took a well-frequented side trail a short distance from the main track. It led a few hundred feet to a rocky ledge, and on this ledge stood … a cross!
Now you would expect a cross, perhaps, on the TOP of Mt. Roberts, but isn’t it interesting that this one appeared just BEFORE the trail became unbearable!
Friends, I’d like to propose that this cross, situated three quarters of the way up Mt. Roberts, serves as a reminder to all of us that we don’t climb alone! The trails that life dictates don’t always end in a mountain top experience, and sometimes life pours on so many negative circumstances that the climb becomes impossible. But through it all, Jesus is there. He can help us over the impassable parts of the trail. He can create new and improved trails. He can hold our hands and comfort us when we don’t attain the mountain top experiences we anticipated attaining.
So what do we do when we find ourselves in a valley of life? Do we follow the example of my boys and get frustrated? Do we get mad at the circumstances? Do we lash out at those who are around us? Do we become angry at God?
Or do we take a moment to contemplate the cross of Jesus Christ?
Prayerfully consider the following text: “Lord, my heart is not haughty, Nor my eyes lofty. Neither do I concern myself with great matters, Nor with things too profound for me. Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with his mother …” (Ps. 131:1-2)
Friends, like a babe in his mother’s arms, let’s stop worrying about the things that are too big for us! Let’s simply surrender to God’s will, even when we can’t see the outcome! In the midst of all of our problems, let’s simply relax in God, ever remembering the Power of the Cross!
This brings us to the conclusion of the MOUNTAIN TOP EXPERIENCES series. In this series we’ve explored the following ideas:
1. The true beauty of God’s power is only visible from the valley itself (MOUNTAIN TOP EXPERIENCES, Part 2);
2. The abundant life promised by Jesus doesn’t always mean a “mountain top experience”. Sometimes it includes valleys (MOUNTAIN TOP EXPERIENCES, Part 3);
3. God’s ways of dealing with our problems are not always OUR ways, but in the end, we still end up on top of the “mountain” (MOUNTAIN TOP EXPERIENCES, Part 4);
4. When we trust Jesus, we will receive the help we need to get through our valley experiences, and in the process, we will build faith and be stripped of our sin (MOUNTAIN TOP EXPERIENCES, Part 5);
5. Sometimes God’s plan is different from ours, but it is always the best (MOUNTAIN TOP EXPERIENCES, Part 6);
6. The way to start climbing OUT of the valley lies in the word “humility” – We need to humble ourselves before God, seek His face, and turn from our sin (MOUNTAIN TOP EXPERIENCES, Part 7);
7. And finally, today we’ve learned that instead of letting our valley experiences make us frustrated or angry, we should spend time contemplating the cross of Jesus. Let’s rest in Jesus’ arms and let Him worry about the hows, the whens, and the wheres!
Let’s stop wishing away our valleys, friends! Instead, let’s sit back and prepare ourselves to enjoy the climb!
My hope and prayer is that the real-life climbing experiences that I have been privileged to experience will help you as you go over the troubled trails of life that we each must follow.
(To access the entire “Mountain-Top Experiences” devotional series, please click here.)