Recently I saw a TV ad that asked a simple but profound question, “What would we be like without our mountains?” The ad then goes on to connect people achieving great things with a particular beer.
Though the ad’s goal was simply to sell beer, the question itself is a profound one. What would we be like without our mountains? Without our battles, trials, betrayals, tragedies? Our instinctive reaction might be that our lives would be better without all the negative. But here is a picture of what life might look like without the struggle. We would be weak, soft, and unchallenged. We would never really grow into our full potential as human beings. We would always have to “win” in order to feel good about ourselves, and losing would be devastating. We would avoid anything that might cause us pain, risk, or loss. We would live only for survival, instead of thriving in our God-given purpose. In short, we would be like an insect who, because it was never allowed to break free of its cocoon, lives its brief life in a weakened and anemic state, in constant fear of losing its fragile existence.
But then comes the fun part, what does God think about this? One of my mentors had a saying about the trend of Scripture as it relates to people: “The Bible never makes it easy on the flesh.” There is something about this statement that rings true in the heart. From Genesis to Revelation, you never find God giving anyone an easy, low-risk assignment. The journey is always fraught with danger and the possibility thereof. In fact, I believe that a sign that you are on God’s path for your life is that you feel that you are in over your head. You feel at times that things are falling apart and that you are stretched beyond your comfort zone. C. S. Lewis spoke of such signs,
“Could we not almost say that this shattering is one of the marks of His presence”?
I am not at all suggesting that God causes tragedies so that he can bring good things out of them, but rather that tragedies occur because we live in a fallen world and because of this reality, God salvages valuable things from pain for those who trust in him. The echoing words of Jesus remind us that we should pray for mountains to be moved, but what happens when we do that and the mountain does not move? Sometimes there is a mountain hindering us and God does not always move it, no matter how much we pray.
This idea is not foreign to the Scriptures. God did not remove all the inhabitants of the lands Israel was inheriting so that he can teach them how to fight.
1 Now these are the nations that the LORD left to test all those in Israel who had no experience of any war in Canaan Judges 3:1 (NRSV)
God did not remove Goliath, but he taught David and Israel how to confront a bully (1 Sam 17:38-50).
God did not remove Judas from betraying Jesus, but rather gave Jesus the strength to endure his trials.
43 Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. Luke 22:43 (NRSV)
Once we answer the question of “What we would do without our mountains?”, then we have a clear idea of what to do with our mountains. If our mountains do not move, then we move in endurance and faith – believing God that he will get us around or over it. In the process of scaling that mountain, we mine timeless truths, grow immovable character and skills. Because of God, we live towards the day where mountains will have a totally different meaning. A meaning that says they that mountains were not created to serve as a symbol of our struggles, but as a sign of our rest.