Life’s journey has many ups and downs, as we all know. But we need the valleys to appreciate the mountaintops, right? We not only need them, we should be grateful for them. That sounds strange. Why would we want to be in a desolate, dark place ever? Who wouldn’t rather be in the glorious sunshine at the top of the mountain that is above the clouds that make the valley even more ominous? Who, indeed?
Much of the struggles in life make us who we are meant to be, I’ve discovered. How we react to those challenges decides if we become what God intended or something else, something less, sometimes something extremely disappointing.
Difficult people can cause us to become defensive, or more forgiving. It’s a choice. A bad relationship can make us less trusting, or more willing to look at our own faults. An unpleasant task that we are forced to undertake might be the thing that causes great frustration, or opens us up to learning a life lesson. Unfair circumstances may make us bitter, angry people, or we could become compassionate, peaceful people.
It’s all a choice on our part. We can do more with the love of God in our hearts. In fact, we can only do any of the secondary alternatives listed above with God’s love. If I know I am a beloved child of God and have opened myself up to receive that love, everything is easier. Easier to bear, easier to do, easier to give away, to no longer require.
I don’t need accolades or to be honored if I honor the God who created me, all of us, out of love for each one. I don’t need to worry about what is fair when I recall that my Savior was treated the most unfairly in the history of the world. I don’t have to try to ‘get my fair share’ for my hard work, if I know that God is smiling at my efforts and my sincere intentions to better my family’s lives or the lives of others I may not even know. I can understand the inherent value in my labor when I offer up each morning all that I do, say, and experience, to God. My sacrifice is praise to Him – the sweat of my brow, or my frustration, or boredom, or being neglected, my suffering, my forgotten efforts; if I offer it all to Him.
In our culture today everything seems sort of topsy turvy with regard to values and the things we should be concerned about. Just a few examples – meekness is a virtue, but not victimhood. And we should glory in neither. Courage is a virtue, but not reckless carelessness for our safety or that of others. And again, there is no reason to boast in either. Love is a virtue, but not lust. And we must never think that our love is about us because true love never is. And lust is always about no one but the self.
Instead of criticizing and finding fault with others, as seems the norm today, we need to remove the planks of hypocrisy, contempt, and obstinate opposition to reason and mercy before reaching to pluck out even a sliver from our neighbors’ eyes. Jesus taught us that.
We can swallow our pride once in a while so others will see a compassionate, thoughtful person who acknowledges the dignity of each person when we remember Jesus on the cross, His perfect example of selfless, sacrificial love of others. It gets easier each time we rely on God to fill us with His love and then let that love flow through us and into the lives of others. The enemies we see become our brothers and sisters, we begin to see them as the misguided and the lost souls they are.
We can’t tell people about God and His love for humanity. We’ve got to show them. That’s how we’ll change hearts. I firmly believe this. Maybe it gets us punched in the gut, figuratively speaking sometimes. Or maybe even literally. I hope not. But we’ve got to try humility and mercy and love. Because whatever we’re doing now in the world is obviously not working.
As a people we may be in a valley right now, but this will only make the mountaintop experience that much more thrilling. We will be filled with gratitude of such magnitude we cannot even imagine. Praise God, thank God, remember He is holy, holy, holy and we should bow down before Him in thanksgiving and awe. That’s what you get to do at the mountain’s summit and what we get to do even now. While we are loving God and our human family, we are advancing the Kingdom on earth!