Here on the mountain I have spoken to you clearly: I will not often do so down in Narnia. Here on the mountain, the air is clear and your mind is clear; as you drop down into Narnia, the air will thicken. Take great care that it does not confuse your mind. –Aslan, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis
Ahab told Jezebel everything that Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “May the gods punish me and do so severely if I don’t make your life like the life of one of them by this time tomorrow!”
Then Elijah became afraid and immediately ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba that belonged to Judah, he left his servant there, but he went on a day’s journey into the wilderness. He sat down under a broom tree and prayed that he might die. He said, “I have had enough! Lord, take my life, for I’m no better than my fathers.” 1 Kings 19:1-4 (HCSB)
Spiritually speaking, the mountaintop is where we would all prefer to live. Nothing in this world can compare to those divine moments of brilliance when the cares and struggles of life fade into oblivion. These are times in drawing near to God that we feel as though we can reach out and touch heaven, times when His voice and calling ring crystal clear, times when we’ll do anything He asks regardless of the cost.
Off the Mountain and into the Spiritual Valley
All too often, though, mountaintop experiences are feel-good experiences sandwiched between two bookends of difficulty. The blessings of God, which seemed clear and obvious only the day prior, can, in an instant, vaporize into the fuzzy mist of a distant dream. I’m not saying that mountaintop experiences aren’t real, but that visions received on high must be lived out in the trenches of life’s valleys.
Of course, we like to think that milestone events are the key to growth. “If we can just get Bob to the conference,” we muse, “his life will be radically changed.” And often it is—but only when the event is followed by a faithful, daily pursuit of God through the mundane affairs of life. What began at the event can be fully realized only through the process. True growth may at times come in leaps and bounds, but in between those leaps and bounds, we must take a series of incremental steps—steps which sometimes stretch for very long distances.
Gazing ahead of us, further into wilderness valleys, we often wonder how we can do it, how we can possibly endure such a potentially dry and difficult span. The answer is always the same: we advance by God’s grace as we take one incremental step at a time. Sometimes they are big strides, sometimes faltering baby steps, but always, they are steps.
We all have times when we feel as though we cannot move forward, not even a fraction, but we fail to realize that even a cry can be a step in the right direction. I remember times of such weakness when all I could do was lie on my couch and cry out to God. But, in crying out to my heavenly Father for help and grace, I was still moving forward regardless of how miserable I felt. Any heartfelt move in God’s direction should be considered forward progress.
Struggle Is Normal
Somewhere, somehow, we have come to develop the mentality that a “good Christian never” struggles, and, like knights in shining armor, we are to ride forward with ease, entirely free of fear. Struggle, we inherently believe, is a form of weakness not to be seen in the lives of those who truly walk with God. But the Bible tells us that Elijah was a man “with a nature like ours” (James 5:17-18); his weakness is quite evident. Add to the mix Christ’s promises of persecution, and how could we ever begin to think that any of us should be immune to weakness and struggle?
Elijah found himself severely tested as everything inside of him wanted to quit. Still, he took a significant step forward by turning toward God and fully expressing his despair. Through Elijah’s humility, even though beset by human weakness—or perhaps because of it—God strengthened him to rise up and continue his journey with supernatural power.
Yes, your spiritual valley may appear to be unending. And, yes, you may feel as though you can’t take another faltering step. But you can cry out to God! You can pray through the Psalms, expressing your struggles and your pain. He will be there to meet you with His ever-sufficient grace. The greatest failure in life is not to struggle, but to quit. Let’s keep moving forward—even if it’s one baby step at a time.
This post is drawn from Chapter Seven of Bob’s devotional: Champions in the Wilderness—Fifty-Two Devotions to Guide and Strengthen Emerging Overcomers.