Often, when facing difficulties in life, we feel like the woman in the picture above. Troubles and trials seem insurmountable and treacherous. Breakthrough seems nowhere in sight, and we begin to entertain the thought that maybe God is a little bit cruel for allowing us to hang off the side of a cliff like this…again.
Even as we pray and make faith-filled declarations, we can tend to battle with fierce doubts and haunting fears, which only makes the trials seem more intense. Have you ever heard yourself say something like:
“This is too much.”?
Or maybe, “Great, here we go again.”?
Or, “Is this ever gonna end?!”
Sometimes we get stuck in the shockwaves of our troubles, and without even realizing it, settle into a view or perspective that forgets God has promised more to the story than what we can see from there.
While shock in an understandable response (temporarily) in the disillusioned parts of our journey, it is important that we learn to look up and consider what God has planned for us next.
The reality is that most of us will battle through moments or seasons when we question why we’re going through the hard things, and whether we must have missed something, somewhere. We will be tempted to think that God must not be Someone we can really depend on. It doesn’t help that there’s always an enemy lurking in the shadows, whispering things that confirm our deepest suspicions. So, since we’re all going to face times like that in our walk with God, it’s important to know that the view we take at those critical impasses makes all the difference in the world!
When our eyes are on our difficulties and troubles, the trek will always seem treacherous. This is the view from down under – where we feel stuck beneath the weight and scope of our trials. From this angle, pain and suffering feel overwhelming, and we feel ill-equipped to deal with them. They feel like giant boulders we cannot scale. It’s the short view, which only considers the cost involved in suffering. From this view, we can’t see past what hurts and all that’s being lost. We become victims, and – being overwhelmed by pain that seems unjust – we tend to question the trustworthiness of our guide and our companions on the journey. Bitterness and confusion become real threats from this angle.
The opposite view is the view from above – the view from the clouds, or the long view. This view is the one God has called us to take in our journey. We are told throughout the Scriptures that we are to set our minds on things that are above; that we’re to fix our eyes on Jesus; that we are to dwell with Him in the Heavenly places; that we’re to wait on and trust in the Lord, and He will cause us to mount up with wings like eagles. From this view, it’s easy to see that God really is good, that His plans haven’t gone awry, that our troubles are not as big as they feel (think of how small things look from the window of an airplane), and that God is still fulfilling His promise to bring good out of every trouble we go through. There may still be suggestions aimed like fiery arrows at our hearts from the enemy who always tempts us to question God, but the view from the heights provides plenty of reassurance that God is faithful and His Word is true.
I once climbed more than 300 steps to catch a view of a famed lighthouse. While on that journey, I grew quite frustrated and tired. It didn’t help that I took the trip just 6 months after being diagnosed with stroke-like migraines, which forced me into a long stretch of immobility. To say I was ill-equipped for such a climb would be a mild understatement! Not only was I winded, but I was also weak. All of these physical and emotional sensations not only impacted my ability to appreciate the destination I was headed for, but also set me up to feel pretty disgruntled toward my husband, who had done his best to take me on a journey he knew – under normal circumstances – would mean a lot to me.
At some point of that 300-plus-uphill-stair journey, I looked up to see a large bird (which looked like an eagle but could have been a falcon) flying overhead. I watched as it glided with ease, catching the drift provided by the wind, so that its flight in certain moments was absolutely effortless. As I watched, Isaiah 40:31 came to mind, and I understood what it meant for those who wait on God to mount up (some versions says soar) with wings like eagles. It was such a clear and beautiful picture of keeping my eyes on God and letting Him carry me to the high places – through the rough terrain, instead of counting every grueling step and getting stuck in the pain and struggle of it all. From my vantage point – stuck in the steps that never seemed to end – it was a cruel journey to be on. But from the eagle’s (or whatever bird it was), it was a glorious day and a beautiful view. I imagine that my husband and God both saw it that way, too, and hoped that I would be able to join them in that perspective.
So how does one get to the high places with God, anyway? How is that we can move from focusing on the pain and loss and cost that confront us in our troubles, to focusing on the promises God has made and the strength He has supplied for enduring until we see them?
In short, you can only get there by going there.
This, Dear Woman of Breakthrough, requires more than a single choice in the face of one season of trouble. It requires a yes that does not quit. It requires closing your eyes and taking the leap of faith that looks deadly. It requires daring to risk taking your eyes off of the thing that’s threatening to kill you and putting them on the One Who’s promising to save you. And it requires that we do this not just once, but over and over again – until it is well established in our souls that – no matter what may come – it is well with our souls.
It takes many journeys into the deep, dark places of our wounded souls and the bitter, broken places of our lives, because it is there – each and every time we dare to go – where we learn about the true nature of God. It is through those journeys that we discover His power to heal, save, deliver and restore. And it is through those journeys that we ultimately gain the faith that teaches us to look at Him in every trouble – to climb up higher and let go of the doubt and the fear we once allowed to keep us trapped all the debris of our devastations.
We get to the high places with God by putting one foot in front of the other – one journey at a time – and by keeping our eyes on God instead of the mess all the way through. The very good news is that we don’t have to drum up that kind of grit from somewhere within our own, broken selves. The Holy Spirit Who lives within us is the source of the yes that takes us through the dark valleys and carries us up into the heights with God.
This doesn’t mean you won’t be tempted to look down at the roaring waves or the crumbling dreams you will sometimes have to endure. He knows our frame – that we are fallen and frail, and that we tend to forget where our eyes are supposed to be. Sometimes we fail. God doesn’t punish us for that. But neither does He leave us helpless and hopeless. Instead, He meets us where we are, and He reminds us that we can trust Him and try again. His yes to us is stronger than our yes to Him!
Even with the promise of His faithfulness, we all go through times when we wish we could trade our journey with someone else’s. Usually, the someone we’ve laid our eyes on has a story that looks easier, but one of two things will always be true: either they aren’t on the narrow path and so the “easy” way is actually leading them down a broad path to death; or they have scaled the heights with God and learned to soar with Him by keeping their eyes on the right things. In the latter case, the “easy” is actually a trained dependence that knows how to glide over troubled waters rather than sink beneath them. Such people don’t necessarily have less troubles (in fact, I’d argue that they likely have more – think “practice makes perfect”). The likelihood is pretty high that they’ve just learned how to navigate through their troubles by taking the high view. When we look at people like this, we shouldn’t want their story, but the God of their story. Because Who He’s been to them, He wants to be for us, too.
Unfortunately, if we read about or listen to other peoples stories -even in Scripture – through the wrong lens, we can find ourselves pretty disillusioned by the desire to be like someone else. We may want Paul or David’s fiercest, bravest moments, when God is desiring that we would not be what they were, but rather see what they saw, and then become what He created us to be because of that view. We tend to forget that Paul endured beatings and shipwrecks, and David experienced the dark consequences of the depths of his own wretchedness, and battled ferocious beasts without weapons in the wilderness all alone. These troubles surely shook them and required a decision about which view they would take. We see their high points because of the way they endured the low points: by fixing their eyes on the God of their whole story.
God gets the right and privilege of being unique in each of our lives. A wise man once told me, as I suffered through one of the most devastating things I could ever have imagined facing, that some people just bleed more than others. It might sound callous to someone far removed from my story, but it was exactly what I needed to hear in a time when I was tempted to question why I had to bear such agony, and why I couldn’t exchange my journey for one that was more like somebody else’s. For reasons only God knows, I had to live that story – the story I never wanted. But because I chose to set my gaze above the devastation, and to look steadfastly at the God Who seemed to be crushing me, I caught the wind, and I was able to soar above it. Now, by His amazing grace, I have done much more than merely survive. I have learned how to thrive in the midst of deep affliction, and I am watching the beautiful mystery of how God turns graves into gardens. I can see clearly now that He never intended to crush me, but to propel me deeper and higher in Him.
When God lifted His hand and allowed Satan to touch Job, Job’s cry was one that often inspires me and reminds me to keep my eyes in the right place:
“Though you slay me, yet I will trust in Him…” (Job 13:15)
Only someone who has taken the high view could say such words! Before Job was nearly destroyed, he had known God and committed himself to following Him. This devoted faith was what set him up to survive the worst devastation of his life, and to thrive on the other side of it. He was able to say, after losing literally everything – including his health – that right in the middle of his deep troubles was where he saw God face to face, and came to know Him so much more.
Dear Sister, take heart, and take the right view! If you look at the choas and the cost right in front of you, there is a good chance you will be deterred in your journey. If you choose, however, to look to the One you might be tempted to believe has abandoned you, and if you will stay there – searching for and then gazing at Him, He will help you to make it through, and to see that there is so much more He has purposed in it all.
One of my favorite verses, paraphrased in the New Century Version, promises this:
“I (God) will not cause pain without allowing something new to be born.” Isaiah 66:9, NCV
If I’m honest, and if I’m taking the short view, I would much rather the words be switched around to reassure me that God will not cause pain at all. I would rather believe that He might allow it, passively, but not cause it directly. That, however, is not the story we find in the whole counsel of the Scriptures. Sometimes God sends things that hurt. Ask Paul, who was given a thorn, a messenger of Satan. Ask the martyrs, who were given a calling to be murdered for believing in Him. Ask anyone who has ever received a promise that required pain in the waiting. When we look at the painful parts and forget the God Who is still enthroned behind them, we lose sight of His goodness. When we look at God, and see our troubles from the seat reserved for us right beside Him, we can’t forget that His goodness is written over it all.
I hope this makes profound sense for you, Beloved One. If it doesn’t, I pray you will spend some time asking God to teach you how to take the high view, how to see everything in your life – especially the hard and hurtful things – through His lens of unimaginable goodness. And I pray that, if trust has been hard for you, you will begin to put your hand in His today, and agree to take some of those deeper journeys that lead to the high places with Him.
He wants to heal the places in us that are prone to low-living, because we are destined to reign with Him. I’m not suggesting that we forsake humility, but that we reject the false version of it. We must know Whose we are, and who we are because of Him. And we must learn to trust and believe His goodness in every part of our lives and stories.
Here’s to having hinds’ feet in the high places! May we learn to leap and skip with Him upon all the mountains that stand as obstacles in our path. With God, there is nothing impossible! In God, there is nothing wasted or without holy purpose – not even your troubles! So look up, and see what He sees in the middle of your messes. He knows where He is leading you, and you can trust Him to unearth many treasures along the way!