Have you ever climbed a mountain? Based on the pictures in promotional church pamphlets, it looks exhilarating. It’s not. It’s exhausting. I mean, there is a rush when you reach the summit, but then you immediately feel the need to lie down and take a nap.
Which is exactly what I did after climbing Yosemite Falls. I carried a pack full of camera gear and water up the steep incline of the 3 mail trail. It must have weighed 60 pounds. When I reached the top, I lied down on a rock next to the river, a stone’s throw from where it crashes over the edge of cliff to the valley below, and fell asleep. It was the sweetest nap I’ve ever taken.
We often call our most intense encounters with God “mountain top experiences.” These are the good times, spiritually speaking. We feel close to God, hear from him personally, and experience significant growth. Spiritual experiences like these are necessary and valuable seasons of every believer’s life. But they are exactly that – seasons. So what happens when we chase these spiritual experiences all the time?
Bouncing from mountain top to mountain top is not how God intends for us to live. It is not normal to live that way. Instead, God wants to meet us at every elevation, whether that’s at the glorious summit or in the deep valley. Your life happens where you are, not where you think true spirituality demands you to be. Learning to be present to God in the face of your life’s circumstances is one of the most crucial lessons of your journey of discipleship.
Mountain top Christianity is an illusion. You’ll burn yourself out chasing the peaks, and you’ll foolishly come to believe that no true Christian can reside in the valley. Psalm 139:8 declares, “If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.” God is where you are. He desires to meet you in the good times and the bad. Jesus took on human flesh to show us that God has run to us, that he intends to meet us in our need, to rejoice with us, to mourn with us, to help us along the way.
If you keep pursuing mountain top Christianity, an overly experiential perversion of the faith, you will eventually fail to encounter the risen Christ at all. Your faith will become about the experience rather than the Person. The reality of your journey with Jesus is that you will find exhilaration on the heights, but you will find nourishment in the depths. Do not neglect one for the other. Rather, abide closely with God no matter the geography.