Years ago, my wife and I spent part of a summer riding our bicycles through the Alps. One part of our journey took us to Interlaken in Switzerland, a little town nestled between two large lakes situated at the base of the Jungfrau range of mountains. We arrived there after a long ride over the mountains from Lucerne – our expectation of riding through the picturesque mountains was doused in a lot of clouds and rain. We had hoped during our time there that we would be able to hike up into the mountains, but the weather didn’t cooperate. We made the best of it, and had an enjoyable couple of days there, but the mountains remained shrouded – we (jokingly) started doubting their existence. On the morning of our departure, the sun finally came out, the clouds parted, and there looking down on us was the iconic Eiger.
A number of passages in the Psalms turn our attention to the mountains as a symbol of God’s presence, help and strength. “In the Lord I take refuge. How then can you say to me: ‘Flee like a bird to your mountain’…The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord is on his heavenly throne.” (Psalm 11:1,4) Mountains do stand as an appropriate symbol – they are massive, unyielding and seemingly unchanging.
But the psalmists were not confused about the nature of mountains – they are only temporary, and are not the true source of power and strength in our lives. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.” (Psalm 46:1-2) The greatness of mountains pales in comparison to the greatness of God.
Nevertheless, mountains are visual reminders for us to look up to God. “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1-2)
Unfortunately, like the mighty Eiger, God can sometimes fade from view. In the course of our lives, external circumstances can keep us from seeing God and what he is doing – so much so that we may wonder if he is still there. But this is not the only way that we lose sight of God. Denise Levertov recounts this well in her poem “Witness”:
Sometimes the mountain
is hidden from me in veils
of cloud, sometimes
I am hidden from the mountain
in veils of inattention, apathy, fatigue,
when I forget or refuse to go
down to the shore or a few yards
up the road, on a clear day,
that witnessing presence.
Sometimes we fail to see God work or be aware of His presence because of internal circumstances. We fill our lives with so much activity that we become too busy or too tired to notice He is there. In our business we get carried away with our own sense of self importance and forget our need to connect with something larger than ourselves.
So, how do we recapture our view of the mountain? The psalmist has advice for us on this as well: “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46:10)
When external circumstances get in the way, we need to be confident of this: whether we are aware of His presence or not, God is there and He will not be moved. God has been faithful to work throughout history, so when it seems like chaos is swirling all around, we need to remember that God is in control. God is working in every situation to bring about his purposes.
When internal circumstances get in the way, we need to find a way to be still. Any relationship, even a relationship with God, takes time and energy. It requires us to be intentional or the world will have its way with us. As C. S. Lewis wisely said,
“…the real problem of the Christian life comes where people do not usually look for it. It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings; coming in out of the wind.”
I hope you see the mountain today.