Mountains have always been God’s training ground. Scripture shows us multiple times when mountains were used to train us to climb closer to God.
God used a mountain to deliver the Ten Commandments to Moses… twice! He used this same mountain to teach Moses to intercede in prayer for the Israelites. Jesus climbed a mountain to deliver the Sermon on the Mount to those who were willing to follow him there. Jesus also went into the mountains to pray to the Father.
I can remember a time in my own life where I climbed a mountain to find God. I had been driving home from my sister’s house, which is typically a four-hour drive. A childhood friend lived in the mountains close to a ski resort town near the halfway point and asked if I would like to stop by. It was just the break I needed. I accepted her invitation and entered her address into the GPS.
In the middle of the mountains, with a wavering GPS signal, I drove along winding country roads with sparsely placed homes. I crossed a wooden bridge over a small creek and noted my estimated time of arrival was less than ten minutes. Great! Modern technology is really helpful. Until it’s not…
I continued to drive on a quiet road until I had lost both my cell phone signal and GPS connection. I had no idea where I was and thought maybe I should turn around and try a different way. The last turn the GPS had given me was to cross this wooden bridge and drive up what looked like a short hill. Without a connection to redirect my path, I thought it best to follow the last known route.
As I started to ascend uphill, I noticed a sign that read, “Road not maintained in winter”, but thought little of it, as it was only mid-November. There had been no recent snow and it was a warm, sunny day so this warning did not apply, right? I forged ahead hoping to rise to a higher altitude, regain my signal, and turn left onto a familiar road to finish my journey.
However, you can probably guess that is not what happened next. I found myself already committed to driving up a steep, slightly curved incline on a one-lane road with no guardrails and a threatening mountainside of rocks and trees looming to the side. To make matters worse, by now I had climbed high enough the temperature had dropped and there was residual snow up ahead. It was late afternoon, nearing four o’clock, and the sun angle had dropped over the other side of the mountain. The snow that had previously melted and run down the slope in the heat of the sun’s rays had now refrozen into a smooth, solid layer of ice.
I was committed to slowly but steadily climbing this terrifying mountain. The ice was so slippery I knew I could not possibly back down the road without losing control and sliding off the edge of the mountainside crashing into rocks and trees. Anyone who knows me knows I can barely drive in reverse on a level surface. I had no choice but to continue straight up the mountain with no real promise of what I would find at the top.
Anxious thoughts began to take over my mind. Was this a maintenance road with nothing but a water tower at the top and no way to safely get back down to civilization? Would my car slide off the side of the mountain and roll, bouncing off the trees knocking me unconscious? I could freeze to death if that were to happen as the temperature was now below freezing and my coat was in the back seat. (Honestly, does anyone really drive four hours wearing a bulky winter coat?)
If I slid over the edge of the mountainside and didn’t lose consciousness, which direction would I walk to find help? It would be dark soon. I could be walking for several hours in this terrain and would likely collapse to face freezing doom before I found help. Certainly, no one would know where to look for me.
Fear gripped my soul and threatened to consume me at a time when it was imperative to keep my focus. I should pray, I thought, but the panic rising within me blocked any words I could have mustered at the time.
At that exact moment, God brought these lyrics from a song by 7eventh Time Down to my mind: “When you don’t know what to say, just say Jesus.” I had no other words.
I recall repeating the name of Jesus over and over again with every forward turn of my four wheels driving me further and further up this mountain into unknown territory.
I could feel one wheel slip and the others compensate to correct the course. My hands were firmly placed at the 10 and 2 o’clock positions, my right foot careful to apply just enough pressure to avoid losing my forward momentum but not too much that I would lose traction.
I continued to repeat the name of Jesus, in a terrified, “Are you there?” sort of voice at first but then in a progressively affirmed voice as we made the ascent.
Yes, I said “we” made the ascent. I will never fully have the words to explain this experience but with every repeating of the name of Jesus, I become more calm and more secure that I would indeed make it safely to the top of this mountain if I only stayed focused on the path before me and not the potential of disaster on either side. It was as if Jesus was sitting right there in the passenger seat saying, “Do not fear, for I am with you.” (Isaiah 41:10)
I was relieved, after what seemed like hours of intense focus, to approach the familiar scene of a house as the ground leveled out. I had re-entered civilization from a lesser known path. Less than a half-mile later, I pulled into the driveway of my friend’s house. The look on her face when I told her of the road traveled confirmed I was not exaggerating my plight. My friend’s exact words were, “No one would have found you until spring!”
But someone did find me that day; or rather I found someone. He had been there all along. Looking back, I often visualize him sitting in the passenger seat completely relaxed thinking, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” (Mark 4:40)
I learned some valuable lessons that day. We cannot fully rely on GPS systems as they do not take into account all conditions and they can often fail when we need them the most. Most importantly, I learned when I call on the name of Jesus, He is there and He will bring me through circumstances I think are impossible just by calling on His name.
God has provided us the ultimate navigation system for life in His written Word. It accounts for all possible conditions as God is all knowing and it never fails us. We can always rely on Him. Just as I focused on Jesus allowing me to drive the road laid out in my immediate path rather than focusing on the dangers lurking on either side or the length of road ahead of me, we are to focus on Biblical truth rather than the potential rocky outcomes of our circumstances.
We are not to be overcome with fear looking over the mountainside at all possible scenarios of destruction, but rather maintain our focus on the only One who is powerful enough to guide us safely to our destination by taking one faithful step after another. Focus on the only One who has the authority to create calm in the storm simply by saying, “Peace! Be Still!” (Mark 4:39)