Mountaintops and Valleys

It’s so interesting to follow the life of the twelve disciples Jesus chose to travel with Him. In Mark 6 we come to a moment when Jesus fed the five thousand with only five loaves of bread and two fish — with twelve baskets of leftovers! It is what happened prior to this event that captures my attention today. In this story thus far, the disciples have listened to Jesus teach through parables. They have seen Him calm a storm, cast out a demon, and then, amazingly, Jesus gave them authority to teach in His name. In Mark 6:13 we are told, “They cast out many demons and healed many sick people, anointing them with olive oil.” That’s amazing, right? More amazing, when a little time had passed, Jesus was teaching five thousand people. As evening approached the disciples suggested that Jesus send the crowds away so they could buy something to eat. Jesus answers, “You feed them.” What did they do at this command? They looked at the purse.

Isn’t it astonishing that, after watching Jesus perform absolute miracles, when such a moment of daily need presented itself, they didn’t think to look to Jesus for instructions; they looked at the practical, seeing the task at hand as impossible. They had not yet learned that Jesus isn’t just on the mountaintop of miracles; He walks with us through the daily routine of in the valley.

We love the experience of joy and the unexpected. To see a miracle (and many of us have seen them) sends us to the heights, but daily life isn’t a continuous journey on the mountaintop. Most days we are taking kids to school, going to work, cleaning house, cooking dinner, looking at the budget and the rising food prices, feeling concern at making ends meet. We fret, and we always will, as long as we keep looking at the purse.

Just like the disciples, we can be thrilled at watching Jesus’ miraculous provisions, but how soon we forget He is just as present in the ordinary, even the hum-drum situations of life, as He is on the mountaintop. What was the disciples mistake? What is the same mistake we make? We look to an experience to be our joy, rather than believing it’s our relationship with Him that brings lasting peace which sweetly fills our being in any storm of life.

Sadly, there are many of God’s disciples who chase experiences. For example, they may attend a church where fabulous things are happening, but when the experience fades and life takes on routine again, they flitter away in search of another experience. Jesus is indeed on the mountaintop, but He isn’t any less present in the valley. In fact, it’s often in the valley where we come to know the sweetness of His nearness when we hurt. It’s in the valley when we are most pliable to be molded into His image. It’s in the valley where that, “peace that passes all understanding,” penetrates into the depths of our being. (Philippians 4:7)

The experience of the mountaintop is fabulous, but it’s in the valley that we come to know the depths of His unfailing love for us. It’s love that surpasses all, that no wind of worry can blow away, that no experience can overshadow. Enjoy the mountaintop; the views are amazing, but do not despair the valley. Jesus is there, too, waiting to lead you on a daily, amazing journey. It’s in the valley where we most often hear Him say, “this is the way, now walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21)

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