When rain clouds obscure reality, keep looking forward in faith.
And pray to be thrilled by the One who holds the rain—and you, even in the deluge.
Two years ago, we were here in Denali National Park, Alaska, a vast wilderness of six million acres. Temperatures were warm, skies were clear and we learned we were among the thirty percent of park visitors lucky enough to see Mount McKinley’s summit. All 20,390 feet of the south peak, the highest in North America, was visible without a single cloud covering any part of the mountain during our entire four-day stay.
Two years later, we’re here again. We arrived in a downpour with McKinley covered.
Not a glimpse of that mountain.
Even when the rain stopped, clouds still covered McKinley in the distance.
It’s as if it had vanished. Slipped right off the side of this sphere.
Only an etching on the glass window at Eielson Visitor Center showed where McKinley’s peak rose in the distance. A woman standing next to me said, “You’d never know there was anything out there.”
I had seen the summit in all its snow-capped, sun-bathed glory.
Not this time.
Now, gone from view, I looked with faith toward what my eyes could no longer see.
Azure had turned gray. Light had turned dark.
Clouds obscured peaks. Skies cried.
Just like life—sometimes. If life could only be so clear, the path up not so perilous—tedious—just plain—hard. But . . .
Weather changes. Winds shift. Mountains of hope within us howl grief when loss whips up a storm.
Even the ground beneath you can quake and you wonder if you’ll be left standing or end up in a rubble heap, ruined.
The push and pull of realities seen and unseen move over and under and through you, maybe downright downing you.
Where is that God when you can’t see or feel anything but frozen, heartbroken? When you’re under an avalanche of emotion, just trying to breathe?
When you’ve been tempted to wonder if God even exists because dark days seems endless and you have no clue how you’ll come through—IF you’ll break through?
When you’ve wondered if what you believe is just your wild imagination toying with you?
When what or who you thought you knew can’t be heard or felt in the unseen place called your soul?
And if you still believe in God, you might just wonder if He cares, if He can be trusted, really.
When those he says he loves suffer and he seems so silent—so distant?
When you’re stumbling around or just plain buried and all seems bleak and you feel so weak?
When you’re driving through dark on roads you’ve never traveled with rain sheets pounding, blurring, and you start to slide? And there are no guard rails—at least none you can see? Those edges are precarious places where you become more alive than ever before—or you die.
And if life goes on, you wonder if you’ll ever find a sunny patch again under all the bruising.
Where is God then?
Then, I’ve wondered whether casting myself far away from God seems fitting for a God who seems so far away.
But then, always then . . .
In that moment of doubt, grace comes calling.
I read the red-lettered voice of Jesus, like he’s speaking just to me . . .
Do you want to leave me too?
Those closest to Christ responded after watching so many turn back when what he had to say was so hard—when the path seemed too dangerous, too narrow, too harrowing, too costly.
They asked him . . .
Lord, where would we go?
Once you’ve tasted and known the goodness of God, the intimacy of his presence, there’s no going back, even in the dreadful dreary, the cold and rainy. Even in the wildest blizzard. Even in the darkest dark.
Because, as Jesus knew, the worst dark is the darkness of God turning his face. The worst place is the hell of not hearing—of not being heard—of disconnection from the One with whom you are made to be one.
When you come to know God as more than a good idea or an entrance ticket to heaven or a buddy to give only what you want, you become driven—determined to reach that summit right along with him, even when it means wrestling, fighting, refusing to let go ‘til he blesses.
Ascents aren’t easy.
Sometimes they’re just plain grueling—all this hanging on, refusing to let go, hunkering down, putting one foot in front of the other, staying attached to the line, waiting for rescue at times.
Soul muscles burn, ache.
And even though fear is an abyss and you’re slipping so close, know this . . .
There is no place where God is not.
There is no place where God is not working his loving will.
Even valleys have their way with us, saturating with holy but hard rains.
Some turn back from wilderness places, preferring comfort and control.
Some want the valleys and the peaks, no matter what.
Because here’s the truth . . .
There is no high like the Most High. And the Most High is in the lowest places.
He knows your every valley, your every peak, your every condition, your every crevasse. He knows the terrain of your soul better than you. He alone is able to turn your worst-case-scenario into your beyond-imagination best.
These aren’t platitudes.
This is my lived-through REAL—the solid ground on which I stand and can proclaim Christ’s guarantee as fully trustworthy . . .
He will NEVER leave you OR forsake you. His love NEVER fails. His provision is PROMISED.
So . . .
I raise my arms in worship, praising when my trek is easy, when the grade is gradual and I can focus on pleasant vistas.
I raise my arms in worship, pleading when I wrestle, even screaming as he stretches soul beyond what I’ve known, beyond what I know I can bear.
I know now from experience that we cannot bear all things.
Not without God.
God provides grace IN THE MOMENT, like manna.
His grace can’t be saved up for tomorrow.
His grace comes fresh every morning, like his mercy. Any other way would reinforce our prideful, wrong belief that we are self-sufficient. Any other way would cause us to walk away, if but a step, from our God.
So, you see, it’s often the painful places where we find God best.
Pain is a precisely measured gift from the hand of God that summits our pride and delusion of self-sufficiency and keeps us intimately connected with the True Love of our soul.
Until it is finished.
Until we are fully purged of pride and have become the unsoiled bride, ready for Jesus to take into his eternal home, face-to-face with glory.
Still, I ask for bitter cups to pass by if possible, for crucifixion crosses to be avoided.
But always, always I ask for grace to bear what God thinks necessary.
Only our Creator knows the path each of his created must take to reach their soul’s summit.
And he hears all. He provides all.
He hears every prayer and etches our senses with Himself. God gives us glimpses of his glory rather than gulps, saturating us slowly rather than drowning us surely, his glory too much for mere flesh to behold all at once.
Even so, God is thrilled to thrill—on the mountain side and in the valley—in the sun and in the rain.
But that’s a journey in words and photos that will wait until next time. Please join me here again for some miracles that will blow your mind (well, hopefully only in a good way!) and some photographs of Alaskan vistas and animals that will leave you speechless except for “WOW!”. Here’s a teaser with NO TELEPHOTO, tongue hanging out . . .
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