He (Jesus) told them, “For I assure you: If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will tell this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matt. 17:20)
But what if we pray, and the mountains don’t move.
One of my children cannot swallow pills. We’ve tried every trick in the book, bought several cool gadgets and throat sprays, and have even spoken with a variety of doctors and pharmacists while seeking for a solution to this exasperating problem. Nothing works. The pills will not go down. Perhaps it is only psychological, but it is creating big challenges for my young teen.
I cannot lose weight. No matter what I do, the number on the scale doesn’t budge. From diet programs like Weight Watchers to medically-supervised diets like Medifast to diligently watching carbs and sugar while incorporating 20+ minutes of exercise a day … I’ve tried it all and nothing works to take the weight off my body. Hormonal imbalances caused by a medical condition and genetics are both partly to blame. As much as I hate to admit it, I’m sure that age must play a factor as well. (In this particular way, forty is definitely not the new thirty!)
This past week, my child and I have both felt overwhelmed by our problems. We are hopeless things will ever change, and so we react to our situations from that deep, dark place of defeat. It’s as if we are standing at the foot of a looming mountain, trying to figure out a way to get to the other side. And from our vantage point, it feels like trying to scale up a vertical cliff without a harness, rope or anchor to help make the climb.
Image courtesy of dan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Mountains are an expected part of this journey called life, and truthfully mountains aren’t necessarily a bad thing. When looked at from a distance, mountains create a lovely and picturesque landscape. Traveling a path that goes nearer a mountain still adds a certain scenic quality to the journey. And though climbing up a well-laid mountain path might be hard, everyone knows the journey is worth it. Standing at the very top, the weary traveler can look out with confidence, knowing the mountain challenge was conquered. Hard won victories give extra meaning to the traveling, and at some future date the traveler will have a tale to tell with those he meets along the journey.
But there are times when a mountain is right in the middle of the road you must take. There seems to be no path around it. There seems to be no path that leads over it. All a traveler can do is work to forge a road that will get them to the other side. It’s at times like this that believers begin to pray for the mountain to move.
My faith tells me that even with just the tiniest bit of faith, the mountains that block my path will move. With all my heart I believe this is true. I’ve known mountains in my life that have miraculously moved out of the way with a single prayer. I can testify time and again how a little faith in God, combined with prayer, have made the impossible happen.
But what about when the mountain doesn’t move? What does that mean? Is it because I lack faith? Perhaps I’ve sinned? My typical response is to fret and fume while trying to figure out why my prayers seem to just bounce off the ceiling. As defeat sets in, anxiety and depression begin to control my thoughts and actions. A sense of hopelessness takes over and soon I no longer believe my mountain can be conquered. Thankfully, God is teaching me a better way.
~I need to trust the heart of God more than the hand of God.~
My faith is too often based on the evidence of God working in my life. But what sort of faith is that? After all, the Apostle Paul reminded us to “walk by faith and not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7) A believing faith has to be more than a seeing faith.
~I need to remember that I am not ever alone.~
When I pray and nothing happens, I begin to fear that God has abandoned me right there at the foot of the mountain. Instead, I need to remember what Moses said to Joshua as he prepared to take the Israelites into the Promised Land, “The Lord is the One who will go before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not be afraid or discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 31:8) Not only does God not leave me at the foot of the mountain alone, He promises to go before me!
~I need to believe God’s plans for my life are good.~
God is showing me that in spite of the problematic mountains I encounter in my life, He still has great plans for me. My husband’s favorite scripture is Jeremiah 29:11, a testament to that fact. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” A mountain I can’t cross yet does not mean God is through with me.
~I need to remember the power and the purpose in praying without ceasing.~
My mountains definitely keep me praying, and this is a good thing. One of my biggest tendencies is to neglect talking with God on a regular basis whenever my life is humming along without problems. However, in 1 Thessalonians 5:7, the Apostle Paul reminds believers to “pray constantly.” I believe if nothing else my problems serve a great purpose just by keeping me on my knees, talking to God and laying my burdens down at His feet.
And this brings me right back to the beginning: Sometimes mountains don’t move out of my way, no matter how much I pray. But when the mountain doesn’t move, this simply means there is an opportunity for me to move closer to God.