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An Austrian mountaintop. Christians often use the concept of a mountaintop experience to describe a special feeling of closeness to God.

Life is More than Mountaintop Experiences

If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, you’re probably familiar with the mountaintop experience cliché. Inspired by Moses ascending the mountain at Sinai to meet with God (Exodus 19:3–25; 24:17–18), this concept is meant to describe a special awareness of God’s presence and love for us. A keener sense that he is with us than we might otherwise have.

I’m sure many of us have had this experience at one time or another. It is a good thing when we do. But we also need to be careful in what we assume about such experiences. Specifically, we need to recognize that, just as the sort of communion Moses enjoyed with God was unusual, that heightened sense of God’s presence is not our typical state of being.

Pursuing Something More Than a Spiritual High

To put it a bit more bluntly, life is not a series of mountaintop experiences to be chased after. Chasing after mountaintop experiences is essentially chasing after spiritual highs. We may not be looking for a deeper intimacy with God. We might be looking for a dopamine hit, something to make us feel good or happy. (And just so you know, despite being a late-Gen X/early-Xennial who prefers songs in minor keys, I am not anti-happiness.)

But when we start chasing after spiritual highs, we also start to define our faith by them. When we get that high, life is good. We feel as though we are gaining greater insights from Scripture. Our prayers are more focused (and possibly ornate). We’re ready to do big things for God and share the gospel with that friend who doesn’t know Jesus. But when the high starts to fade, our sense of intimacy and our resolve go with it.

Basically, we’re like kids after a week at a Christian summer camp. We’re amped up for a while, but by the time October rolls around, life is back to normal.

What do we do then? Whatever we can to recapture that feeling we seem to have lost, which gets harder to attain every time.

God Meets Us in the Valleys

Genuine “mountaintop experiences” are good thing, but they are not everything. And what we need to remember is that God’s presence with us is not defined by how we feel. He is with us even when we’re not aware of his being with us at all.

He is with us in our darkest moments, the ones we might call the valleys. Those times when we are struggling with darkness, depression, and sorrow. Those times when we cry out along with the Psalmist, “Why, Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you pay no attention during times of trouble” (Psalm 10:1). And in those moments, we have to remind ourselves that God is the comforter of the downcast (2 Corinthians 7:6). That he hears the cry of the afflicted (Psalm 10:17). And no matter what our hearts tells might tell us, he will never, ever abandon us (Hebrews 13:5). God is with us in the valleys. He meets us there.

God Walks with Us Through the Plains

And then there is the rest of life. Those times when we experience neither the highest highs or the lowest lows. When things are just. . . flat. When everything is just kind of routine and we might feel like we’re running on autopilot. Bible reading is perfunctory. Prayer is too. Let’s call those times the plains.

These are the hardest moments of all for many of us. These are the times that require endurance and perseverance because they seem boring, especially if we’re experientially oriented. The highs and lows offer exactly what the names suggest. But the plains are exactly that.

But these times are an opportunity for us. They are meant for cultivating—to take what seems like an empty plain and transform it into a field. To till soil and plant seeds. To nurture our faith so that we might enjoy the mountaintop experiences and endure the valleys. And here, God is with us too. He walks with us through the plains and guides us with his unseen hand.

God is with Us in Every Moment

No matter where we find ourselves today, whether we’ve had a fresh experience of intimacy with God, we’re struggling in the valleys, or we’re plodding through the plains, let’s never forget: God does not only meet us on the mountaintop. He is with us in the valleys and the plains, too.

And God is with us, right now. If we are in Christ, he is lives within us (1 Corinthians 3:16). He is speaking to us, even when we don’t realize it. He is at work in us, making us more like Jesus with each passing day. May we all find rest, contentment, and even joy in that good news.


Photo by Marc Wieland on Unsplash

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