Countercultural

Look Deeper, See Clearer, Run Harder

Should I Chase after Mountaintop Moments?

Many Christians have experienced “mountaintop moments,” or what some would call “spiritual highs.” Some people run after these moments, longing to feel emotionally close to God, while others shy away from these experience-driven moments, the thrill of which often fades a few days after the encounter.

Mountaintop Moments

Photo Credit: Kai Oberhäuser

Whether you love or cautiously approach these experiences, I want to show you how God uses mountaintop moments for His glory and our good.

Mountaintop moments touch the divine.

When we eat something delicious, we let everyone know by sighing with contentment. When we watch the climax of an emotional movie or listen to a beautiful soundtrack, we can be moved even to tears.

What is that?

The subject of each of these experiences is an expression of beauty. When our soul is moved—whether because of history, interest, or human nature—the response is worship. To worship is to be human.

For this reason, I believe having emotional encounters with God is not to be shunned. To stifle emotions in relation to God is to repress a response to beauty from the very Author of beauty. Encountering God should elicit more of an emotional response than any other experience, not less.

When we feel emotionally drawn toward an object, person, or experience, intimacy and trust is built. The existence of mountaintop moments shows me that God desires intimacy with me. He desires intimacy with you. He wants you to feel overwhelmed with joy and awe in encountering Him so that our trust in Him is built.

When we experience God through mountaintop moments, we experience a higher reality.

Now, I don’t want to sound too spiritual here, so hear me out. When Peter, James, and John encountered the transfigured Jesus on the mountaintop (Mark 17), did they see a part of Jesus that wasn’t there before? In a sense, yes and no.

Their only earthly or sensual understanding of Jesus was as a man, but on the mountain they saw glory that had been His for eternity past and is for eternity future.

In the same way, mountaintop moments allow us to see a glimpse of God as He is. He never changes; we simply encounter a part of Him that we don’t usually get to see. As my friend and artist Eric Samuel Timm said, “God doesn’t get spiritual highs.”

Mountaintop moments carry us into the valley.

“But,” some might protest, “those who always and only seek a spiritual experience have useless spirituality.” It is true in some respects to quote, “He was so heavenly minded he was no earthly good.” But that’s not the full picture.

“If you read history,” C. S. Lewis wrote, “you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next…. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.”

How does the transfiguration end? First, a cloud appears, and a voice says from the cloud, “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him” (Mark 9:7)! Then, the part we don’t often tie with it, Jesus and His three friends descend from the mountain, into the valley where a father is waiting for Jesus with his demon-possessed boy.

See, God made us for heaven. But not yet.

I’ve never read anyone express this better than Oswald Chambers. The truth is, this entire post has just been a set up for the most powerful quote I’ve ever heard about experiencing God. You won’t regret reading this. From October 1 of My Utmost for His Highest:

We have all experienced times of exaltation on the mountain, when we have seen things from God’s perspective and have wanted to stay there. But God will never allow us to stay there. The true test of our spiritual life is in exhibiting the power to descend from the mountain. If we only have the power to go up, something is wrong. It is a wonderful thing to be on the mountain with God, but a person only gets there so that he may later go down and lift up the demon-possessed people in the valley (see Mark 9:14-18). We are not made for the mountains, for sunrises, or for the other beautiful attractions in life— those are simply intended to be moments of inspiration. We are made for the valley and the ordinary things of life, and that is where we have to prove our stamina and strength. Yet our spiritual selfishness always wants repeated moments on the mountain. We feel that we could talk and live like perfect angels, if we could only stay on the mountaintop. Those times of exaltation are exceptional and they have their meaning in our life with God, but we must beware to prevent our spiritual selfishness from wanting to make them the only time.

You were made for mountaintop moments—and the valley. God wants more for your life than an aesthetic experience; He wants to draw you close and make you like Jesus. What we experience on the mountaintop gives the valley purpose, and what we experience in the valley makes the mountaintop glorious.

  • Thanks. Makes me think of the conversations on thin places. Eg http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markdroberts/series/thin-places/
    “A thin place is a place where the boundary between heaven and earth is especially thin. It’s a place where we can sense the divine more readily”.
    You;re right – we’re glad for these places, we need them, but we can’t live in them!

    • Thanks for sharing that link, Chris. One of the big reasons I wrote this post is because I feel a lot young Christians from my generation in the states (maybe UK, too) are apt to run after the emotional experience for it’s own sake. I remember countless times when I would experience God, be inspired, and then go on with the rest of my day virtually unchanged. I wanted to remind people—those “thin place” moments are good, but the love we feel from God is meant to compel us, as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:14.