I have climbed much higher, skied much faster and known much more about the mountains . . . in my mind’s eye than I ever experienced in real life. But oh, how I love the mountains!

Since that early age when my parents would load the family into our car in the wee hours of the morning in order to get a cool start on our long, hot August journey across the plains of Texas toward Colorado, I have been madly in love with the mountains. Crazy – I can almost hear the breeze wafting through the towering pine trees when we talk about a trip northward – love for one of God’s most majestic created spaces.

No, I haven’t scaled the highest peaks on all continents. Not even close, unless you count reading about or watching documentaries of those who have. Yet still the lure of the mountains inexplicably holds my heart captive. The crisp air, roaring waterfalls and gurgling mountain streams call me to come.

Memories of sweeping vistas and towering peaks bring to mind scenes of incredible beauty ‘painted’ by God’s hand on the sky’s enormous canvas. Rocky cliffs and towering boulders give evidence of God’s steadfastness and faithfulness. The vast arrays of flowers and grasses on valley floors emanate joy. And a blanket of peace warms my soul as I remember the gently falling snow.

I’ll admit it – I am a life-long mountain ‘junky’, which might just help explain why I so loathe the life-draining heat of central Texas’ summers! Certainly it explains why there are times I feast so deeply on God’s presence as God speaks to me through His Creation.

The Psalmist in 19:1 declares that the heavens are telling of the glory of God and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Surely, all creation does speak of the glory of God, giving witness to so many facets of God’s character. God’s majesty and glory, beauty and tenderness, power and strength, covenantal faithfulness and love, resurrection and hope . . . .

All around us are visual images of the seasons of a life’s journey . . . birth, nourishment, growth . . . even sickness, catastrophe, death . . . yet always, new life beginning again, often times stronger and richer because of a disaster.

Just as God continually provides new physical life all around us, I believe God will provide life for our souls, no matter where we find ourselves in life’s cycle. Just as God gives and shares in our joys, I believe God also hears the deepest cries of our hearts and draws near to those who hurt in inexplicable ways.

God is with us in all our days.

For those of you who have much to rejoice over, I want to rejoice with you. For those of you who are plodding along this journey we call life, I want to plod along with you. But for those of you who find yourselves stuck in a morass of things beyond your control, even things that may destroy life, I want to give voice to the cries of your hearts. To somehow give voice to your doubts, questions, fears, anger, grief, or despair. To assure you there are others who have walked this way before and pray there are others walking with you.

I yearn to give witness to a God who does not cause nor has never rejoiced in evil. Who may not give us answers in this life but who is our only Hope. Who is and who reigns. Who hears, sees and comes near to those who are hurting. A God who can and will redeem our lives and our days, even when pain seems to be winning. Even when darkness seems to blot out His presence.

I believe in the God who promises to bring good somehow out of the fires of suffering committed to Him. To make beauty rise from the ashes of our lives. For when we cannot go on, God is there, our names inscribed on the palms of {His} hands. (Isaiah 49:16b)  Carrying us as a Shepherd carries his sheep. (Isaiah 40:11) Walking beside us. (Ps 23) Sustaining our souls. (Ps 54:4) Comforting us. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4) Giving grace and mercy to help in our time of need. (Heb 4:16) Helping us to overcome. (2 Corinthians 4:8-18, Isaiah 43:1-3a, Job 23:10)

And for those who love and serve the risen Lord, proclaiming that one day all mourning will be over (Isaiah 61:3), all tears dried (Revelation 7:17), pain ended (Revelation 21:4) and bodies healed. Promising that we can spend eternity in the presence of Almighty God and our Savior, Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 2:7-8)

Even though times of suffering may tear us down, God is there, picking up the broken pieces of our lives and lovingly putting us back together all the while strengthening our souls and guiding us out of the darkness into His light. Creating conduits in those who have suffered to pour forth messages of light, hope, redemption, healing and restoration. Messages that many in our world desperately need to hear.

Yes, there are times that miracles happen. Healing comes. Life is restored. And we celebrate with deep gratitude.

But even when miracles don’t happen, our suffering does not have to be wasted. For if we give our pain over to God and submit to the journey before us, perhaps even greater miracles occur as people of God walk through the fires of suffering by the grace of God. Live out their days in the joy of God’s strength. Stand on God’s promises of sustenance and grace for whatever comes our way.

Those are the lives that light the way for others and . . . many will come to see and will trust in our Lord. (Psalm 40:3b)

Our God is the Creator of the Universe. Transcendent, Almighty, Holy, God. Omniscient, Omnipresent and Omnipotent.

But oh, how I also have come to know our God, our Savior, as Imminent, always near . . . walking with us through all our days.