You may have noticed (but I’m betting not) that it’s been a minute or two since I’ve posted anything to this blog. The thing is, I’ve been a bit preoccupied … moving a mountain.
The whole thing began once upon a Sunday in January when I left church moved by the words of a song sung in worship. That thing that had been weighing on me, dragging me down, and otherwise impeding my progress ought to be cast off, removed, and thrown in the sea. I was inspired.
I woke up the next day and declared to that thing, that mountain, and to all my friends on Facebook who took notice, that it was a mountain-moving kind of Monday. I felt empowered.
Then it was the next day. Tuesday. I felt neither inspired nor empowered. And that mountain, so utterly unmoved by my exhibition of spiritual bravado, loomed larger still. I began to feel overwhelmed by the impossibility of it all. But from somewhere, so deep inside my soul that I cannot take credit, came a sentiment that surprised me, even as a I heard myself express it out loud. Gratitude. I was thankful that thing was still there. As wonderfully inspired and empowered I’d felt the two days past, I found that I was glad for Tuesday, and told God so.
When I first spoke to that mountain I honestly pictured that thing being flung, with little more than a snap of Jesus’ supernatural fingers, into the sea (far, far away from me) in a singular, spectacular splash. It does happen that way sometimes, but not always. And it certainly wasn’t to be the case here. It was on Tuesday that I realized that a mountain is sometimes less an obstacle, and more an opportunity – one that in this instance, at least, I was convinced Jesus put there on purpose.
The Bible tells us to “glory in our sufferings” and to consider our trials “pure joy” because they produce in us perseverance, character, and maturity. See Romans 5:3-5; James 1:2-4. What is a mountain blocking our path, if not a trial? What is the painful, tedious removal of that mountain from our path bit by rocky bit, if not suffering?
The joy in our trial and glory in our suffering is the opportunity for God to develop in us a spiritual tenacity and grit that is increasingly hard to come by for those of us who live in a culture that prizes and applauds ease and comfort. Ever so subtly, our culture creeps into our Christianity and we find ourselves sitting there waiting for God to make our lives all better in spectacular, miraculous fashion and wondering why, when he doesn’t.
It will get better, though maybe not always in the way we envision. And that mountain will move, but not because Jesus vanquishes it from our path in an instant. It will move because His death and resurrection has given us the perseverance and endurance we need to haul that thing to the sea, one carved out chunk of rock at a time. The spiritual maturity resulting in us from this endeavor is no less miraculous than seeing a massive hunk of stone spontaneously fling itself into the water.
Lest we miss it, there is also grace in that mountain — the one that Jesus won’t move for us. For most of us, it is the earnest cry of our heart to be used by God in building His Kingdom. But that kingdom will not be built by a body of spiritually soft and flabby believers seeking their own ease and comfort (and I am chief among those guilty of this). It will be built by those with strong spiritual arms and calloused hands accustomed to the moving large chunks of stones — like the ones carted away from a stubborn mountain.