Thursday, August 25, 2016

Confronting Our ‘Mountains’

Mountains are beautiful, unless
they're standing in the way of our lives.
Mountains. They’re majestic, magnificent, massive. Among of the joys of living in the Chattanooga area are scenic wonders like Signal Mountain and Lookout Mountain, both of which figured significantly during the Civil War, as Confederate troops kept watch along the Tennessee River for approaching Union soldiers.

I’ve also gazed at the Great Smoky Mountains, just a short drive away, and had the opportunity to take in spectacular vistas of the Rocky Mountains on numerous occasions. I’d never consider trying to climb Everest or Kilimanjaro, but viewing such celebrated peaks via cinematic media always provides a vicarious thrill.

Sometimes, however, the “mountains” we encounter aren’t nearly so awe-inspiring; they’re agonizing instead. These emerge as formidable, seemingly immovable obstacles to our quality of life, our hopes and dreams. As the Rev. Anthony Evans described them recently, “they’re too tall to climb, you can’t go around them, and you can’t go through them.”

These mountains take many forms – overwhelming debt, whether due to unplanned expenses, emergencies, unwise spending, or a combination of all three; serious health problems with no sure or simple remedy; life-controlling addictions that afflict either ourselves or loved ones; or crucial, difficult junctures in life when none of the possible options seems acceptable.

Sometimes the tallest, biggest “mountains” we must face come in the form of people, whether, a difficult marriage, struggling children, an impossible boss, pesky neighbors, or even divisive folks at church. In any case, the problems are easy to identify, but solutions are not.

So how do we handle these mountains if it seems we can’t get over them, around them, or through them? Our first reaction might be to shrug our shoulders in resignation and despair. We can always curl up into a fetal position and hope somehow the dilemma will disappear on its own. Or we can turn to the One for whom no difficulty is insurmountable.

In the Scriptures we see repeatedly how apparently impossible situations for God’s people were turned into great triumphs. Joseph sold into slavery by his brothers, then wrongfully imprisoned, but rising to a lofty position of authority in which he was able to intercede for his family – even the traitorous brothers – and ultimately, the nation of Israel. The Israelites literally caught between a seemingly impassable Red Sea and an army of vengeful Egyptian soldiers. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego strolling through a fiery furnace, carrying not even a whiff of smoke when they emerged. Daniel tossed into a den of lions that turned as docile as kittens.

The list goes on and on, but the point is simple: No mountain, physical or circumstantial, is too high or broad for God to overcome. That’s why He can offer promises like, “do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

A bit earlier, through the prophet Isaiah in the same book, the Lord also declares, “but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint!” (Isaiah 40:31).

At those times when we survey our circumstances and determine, “I can’t do this!” the Lord responds with, “I know, child, but I can – and will.” As the apostle Paul, who had gone through more than his share of impossible situations, stated, “I can do everything through him (Jesus Christ) who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).

What “mission:impossible” confronts you today? When you conclude, “I can’t do it. I just can’t!”, believe it or not, you’re in a great place. Because then you can turn to the One who CAN.

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