Earlier this week, while visiting Great Smoky Mountains National Park with my family, I was reminded of the fact that no matter how dark things are in the valleys, the sun is always shining above the clouds. Anyone who has ever flown in an airplane knows this, of course, but we don’t often have the opportunity to experience it in a car. With the temperature hovering around 30oF and a thick fog settling over the park, it was not a great day for scenic views. In the morning we drove over 75 miles through dense forest on a road that ran along a swiftly flowing stream. We could see the stream, the trees, and the landscape around us but, looking up, we could not see the hilltops or the sky or the sun. In fact, the cloud-cover was so dense at higher elevations that everything was covered with a heavy layer of hoarfrost. Although eerily beautiful, it was as if all the colors were muted and the world was dominated by grays, browns, and whites.
Later in the day, we began driving up to the pass that goes through the highest part of the park. As we drove up the winding road, we climbed into the cloud and then through the cloud and into the brilliant sun. Suddenly all the colors came back. The green came back into the evergreens and rhododendrons. The sky was bright blue without any clouds. The sun was nearly blinding in its glory. We had not been able to see the tops of the hills for days. Now we were looking down on peaks and valleys for miles. When we reached the highest point on the road, we could look back and see the clouds still sitting in the valleys at the lower elevations. While we soaked in the sun above, we knew that back down at the bottom the landscape was still dominated by darkness, frost, and fog. Needless-to-say, we stayed up as long as we could, knowing that we might not see the sun again for some time. I will admit that it was hard to go back down off the mountain, but having seen the sun and the clear, blue skies, it was easier going back down than it might have been otherwise. Seeing the park from a new perspective completely transformed my perception of what the Smoky Mountains are really like.
Our tendency to become consumed with our immediate situation means that we need to have our perspective re-calibrated regularly if we are not to become overwhelmed with the challenges and frustrations of ordinary life. Jesus did something similar to this while He was on the earth when He took three of His disciples up on a mountain.
“Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; 2 and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light” (Matthew 17:1-2, NKJ).
Down below there were children with epilepsy (Matthew 17:15). There was spiritual warfare (Matthew 17:18). There was an impending cross (Matthew 17:22-23). Up on the mountain there was a glorious Lord in His brilliant splendor. We need to see His glory regularly if we are to appreciate the fog and darkness of living in a fallen world. We need to know that His radiance is never diminished – even if we are laboring in a difficult field or seeing the destructive power of sin in the lives of loved ones around us. And in those times when the sun breaks through and we have a little taste of the glory that awaits, we need to know Whom to thank.
Our need for constant re-calibration is one of the reasons that God calls us to worship Him publicly every week on the Lord’s Day. God has promised to meet with His people in a special way in the public worship. He says in Psalm 87:2 that He “loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob.” In other words, there is something unique about the place of worship and the corporate, public gathering. So much so that the LORD loves these more than all the individual homes in which His people live and serve Him. If you want to get truly above the clouds where you can see with greater clarity the brilliance and glory of your Lord and all that He has done for you, then worship Him in a Bible-believing and preaching church every week that you possibly can. Be sure you do that this coming Sunday (December 25) as well. More time with family will not change your perspective like gathering with fellow believers to publicly praise the Lord of Glory, Who came to earth to save sinners. Meet with Him above the clouds so that you can serve Him faithfully in whatever valleys you encounter.