Friday, November 19, 2004

The Mountain of Impossibility

Have you ever wondered, (c’mon now, be honest), why God often allows life to be so trying?

Doesn’t it seem that He should step in to take care of the difficulties just a bit quicker? I mean, why does He have to take us to the edge before He steps in?

There they were, standing on the beach, waves lapping close to their sandaled feet. Any other time it would have been a calming moment. Not today. The reason they were looking out at the sea is because their enemies were in hot pursuit. Red Sea in front of them, the Egyptian army, complete with horses and chariots, (the ancient equivalent of tanks), quickly closing the distance behind them. God could have parted the waters as they reached them and saved the Israelites the sweat. But He didn’t. He let them sweat and sweat and sweat. They were standing at "The Mountain of Impossibility."

The man had been blind for over 30 years, since birth. Surely his parents had prayed with hurting hearts when it first became obvious he couldn’t see. "Think of all he will not experience," his parents must have thought. "He will be consigned to begging for life. Is that what you want, God?" Surely he prayed as he got older, but the heavens were silent. God could have intervened any time along those several decades. But He didn’t. He let the man suffer in terminal darkness, until He had given up hope of ever seeing. He was feeling his way around the base of the "Mountain of Impossibility."

You’ve been there, too. Circumstances, a relationship, a financial dilemma, a health struggle that goes beyond difficult to impossible. Maybe you’re there now. If not, you will be in the not too far-away future. Not because God is not near, but because He is up to something.

As God moves us (sometimes without us knowing it is Him) through impossible situations, He forces us to stay at the foot of the mountain, staring at its impossibility until it overwhelms us. He makes us linger there, causing realization of the height, breadth, snow, ice, cliffs, wind, dangerous animals, lack of food and equipment, need of a guide, and our inadequacies. It all comes crashing down on our minds, hearts, spirits and bodies until we are compelled to recognize its impossibility, not just its enormity.

The problem is not that the mountain is big, but that it’s impossible. Big we could handle. Impossible is not handle-able. There is just no way we can cope with it on our own. When He has kept us staring at the mountain long enough for that to truly sink in, then He can do His best work. He has forced us to the point where we have only two choices: to turn away or trust Him. If the Israelites turn away from God’s command to walk toward the sea, they get slaughtered. If the blind man turns away from Jesus’ instructions to wash, he remains blind, but worse, he ends up in hell. That decision to turn away or trust determines what we experience next. Forcing us to that choice is the only way God can build deep trust in us. Moving the mountain is the easy part for God. Getting us to deeply, completely trust Him is hard and requires removing our options.

Therefore the moments we feel most abandoned are moments of greatest potential for experiencing the things that are most important.

Read that statement again. Lot of superlatives there. Rightfully so.

The Israelites cried out to Moses. Moses cried out to God. Moses obeyed and BEHOLD, the mountain moved. Well, actually the sea parted left and right, but it’s pretty much the same thing. God delivered them through the water and from the army. The mountain of impossibility was a moment of miracles, but more important, of trust-building.

Jesus told the blind man to wash off the spit and mud in the pool of Siloam (John 9). He did and the mountain moved. After 30 plus years the mountain moved and he could see for the first time in his life. The mountain of impossibility was a moment of miracles, but more important, of trust-building for his life and eternity.

God’s heart is tender toward us. He will not force us to stand at the foot of the mountain of impossibility any longer than necessary. But He will not cut us loose one second early. That would be the harshest cruelty of all.

There is a catch. The mountains only move for those who obey. Moses obeyed and the mountain moved. The blind man obeyed and the mountain moved. Pharaoh refused to obey and experienced worse agony. The blind man’s pastors refused to believe and their darkness increased for this life and the next. God can only take us to the mountain. He will not force us to obey.

And it is not a "one mountain and done" experience. There are a multitude of mountains in the obedient Christian’s lifetime, for God is ever trying to get us to deeper and deeper trust. In that trust we experience Him and His incredible work.

My advice: embrace the mountains of impossibility through quick surrender and trust. Sometimes there’s simply no quick way through those times, but don’t make them last any longer than necessary. Get on to the mountain moving part. It’s a lot more fun looking at them through the rear view mirror!

"I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."" Mat 17:20b (NIV)

"For nothing is impossible with God."" Luke 1:37 (NIV)

"Jesus replied, "What is impossible with men is possible with God."" Luke 18:27 (NIV)

"Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God."" Mark 10:27 (NIV)