As we drove through the highways and switchbacks of Zion National Park in Utah, I found it impossible to not be awed by the magnificent mountains that unfolded before me at every turn. It was my first time to set foot in Utah and I had no idea that I would find some of the most breathtaking landscapes here. Looking up, I could see unique and interesting shapes on the peaks, such as the west temple or bridge mountain or the watchman. The spectrum of colors that varied depending on the amount and direction of the sunlight, is no less fascinating. There was red, pink, orange, white, gray black, with some green from the trees that are scattered throughout the mountainsides or in thin strips outlining some of the rock layers. The photographs I took could never adequately capture the splendor that my eyes and my heart enjoyed.
For a brief moment, I asked myself how God could create these beautiful and diverse landscapes. And the Holy Spirit reminded me instantly – He spoke. That’s it. He spoke and the world came into being.
Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded and it stood firm.
Now why is this still important for me to reflect on after decades of being a Christian? Because I forget. And because He knows that I forget, yet loves me unconditionally, He never gets tired of reminding me. Sometimes He uses mountains.
In the gospels, we read that there were quite a few events throughout His life and ministry when our Lord Jesus went up on a mountain. Matthew tells us that Jesus went up to a mountain to teach, and that’s where we find the sermon on the mount. The sermon began with the Beatitudes in chapter 5, (which I would love to blog about another time) all through chapter 7. Jesus covered a lot while on that mountain – enough to fill three chapters of Matthew’s gospel. And we see chapter 8 opening with “when he came down from the mountain…” (Matt 8:1). I wondered what it was like to be among his listeners, standing on a plateau or sitting on a rock or resting under a tree while learning from the Master.
We come across another mountaintop event when Jesus was transfigured and demonstrated His glory to three of His closest disciples – Peter, James and John. On that day, and on that mountain, the voice of God the Father himself spoke to human ears, and was heard by ordinary men. (Matthew 17:1-8). Appropriately so, the disciples fell on their faces terrified. But when Jesus touched them, they heard the most comforting words from their Rabbi – Rise and have no fear. Words that our gentle Savior still speaks to us today.
Jesus also retreated to the mountains in order to spend time with His Father in prayer. In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. Luke 6:12 This verse refers to a particular time of prayer that took place just before Jesus made a very important decision; that of selecting the twelve men who would be His apostles. Clearly, Jesus was purposeful and faithful in setting aside time to be with His Father. If it was that precious to Jesus, shouldn’t it be precious to His followers, too?
I see how mountains can really be useful in pointing my heart to God. They help me remember what God has said and done. They invite me to recall what Jesus taught and how He lived. I came to this place with a mountain of cares. I have been praying that God would strengthen me because far more challenging times are up ahead. I have realized that the strength that I seek is not found in these mountains themselves but in the God who created them, the God who still uses them for His glory, the God on which they stand firm. Like all of His creation, my very existence is meant to display God’s glory, and my steadfastness as a follower of Christ depends on Him alone. He says to me and to you, “Rise and have no fear.”
As we pack for the flight home and I recharge my phone battery that has been repeatedly drained in my efforts to photograph the beauty that surrounds me, my heart has likewise been generously recharged by His loving presence in the grandeur of His creation. I’m leaving these lofty mountains today with a refreshed soul and a renewed perspective of how great my Father is, and I pray this truth will equip all of us as we journey in the valleys of daily life.
“Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” Revelation 4:11
This hard place in which you perhaps find yourself is the very place in which God is giving you opportunity to look only to Him, to spend time in prayer, and to learn long-suffering, gentleness, meekness – in short, to learn the depths of the love that Christ Himself has poured out on all of us.