So for the past few weeks, we’ve been looking at a pattern of mountaintop experiences that God’s people experienced in the past. The pattern, which we saw with Moses, Elijah, and Peter, goes something like this:
- The primary experience – Whoever it is goes up on a mountain and has an incredible experience with God.
- Falling off the mountain – This same person comes down the mountain and has to confront sinfulness, apathy, and hostility from those around them, causing them to react with anger, depression, and fear.
- The secondary experience – The person has a second mountaintop experience with God where he learns something new about God.
This, coupled with what “the Death Trapp” taught me in Old Testament Literature I, really saved me from myself.
What’s that? I never said what Dr. Trapp said to me? Oh, how perfectly rude of me. Now would seem like the right time to share.
Essentially, what Dr. Trapp said was this: mountaintop experiences can be fun and they can be exciting. But they’re not lasting, because all they are is an excitation of our emotional state. Yes, that can be caused by being in God’s presence, but when His presence appears to fade, the excitation fades as well. If we believe that our faith is only working when we feel a certain way, then we’re going to keep trying to manufacture those mountaintop highs. Suddenly our faith becomes about feeling the right way toward God. It becomes something that we have to do. And that brings us into dangerous territory.
We human beings are fickle creatures, and our emotions are especially so. We can run through a gamut of emotional states in just a matter of hours. We’re on a constant rollercoaster between emotional highs and lows, one that we can’t predict or control. Sometimes we’ll feel happy. Sometimes we’ll feel sad. Sometimes we’ll feel angry. And on and on it goes.
The danger here is when we assume that our faith is only working when we feel a certain way, when we’re on one of those spiritual mountains. We’ll throw every effort into manufacturing those experiences, believing that doing so is the only way to maintain a living and vital faith. Problem is, that means that our faith is somehow up to us. If we can’t maintain that high, we think there’s a problem with us, that we’ve somehow failed both ourselves and God.
That couldn’t be further from the truth. Faith isn’t a matter of me maintaining a certain emotional state. Faith is a saving relationship with God, one that He initiates because of His divine love. That grace isn’t contingent on my emotional state. What’s more important is how much God loves us.
Or, to put it the way Dr. Trapp did:
“How I feel about God from moment to moment is not as important as how God feels about me.”
Our emotions change. Sometimes we’re on top of the mountain. Other times, we’re trudging through the valleys. But throughout it all, God’s love for us does not change. The relationship we have with Him through Christ does not ebb and flow with our emotional states. That remains true and strong.
That’s the truth that eventually saved me from myself. Happy or sad, angry or excited, God’s love for me is constant. Or, as St. Paul put it, nothing can separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus, my Lord.
So do I get up on the mountain sometimes? Sure. It happens. And it’s fun when it does. But now I’m ready for when I come back down in the valley, because I know that whether I’m at the highest heights or lowest lows, God is with me all the way.