Have you ever experienced a mountaintop moment? I’m talking the kind where your whole soul feels like it’s on fire and you can’t wait to share the flames with everyone you meet. Maybe it was a mission trip or church camp that gave you a higher sense of purpose and you believe nothing can extinguish the joy you feel.
Until about two hours after you come down from the mountain and return to your real life.
My first time visiting a mountain top happened when I was 12 years old, the summer before I started seventh grade. It was my first time going to youth camp and my church chose Go Tell at Liberty University. For the first time in my lifelong church experience, everything clicked inside of me. I stood up with the other kids who accepted Jesus into their hearts and even felt a call to some sort of ministry. There’s nothing quite like the first time you experience true salvation and grace from Jesus. I was on fire.
I remember the seven-hour ride home and how excited I was to tell everyone about how I was changed. We finally arrived at the church and I practically jumped out the van so I could run and tell my sister my exciting news, only to see her face tell me now wasn’t the time. We grabbed my stuff and loaded it in the car and finally she explained her somber look.
While I was gone, my dad had tried to kill himself.
It was like I had summited Mt Everest only to descend too rapidly, causing altitude sickness and all the other horrible things that can happen to you when you push your body higher than it can handle.
I sat beside her and listened to what happened and felt all the fire that had filled me begin to smolder. Every detail was like another piece of sand tossed to extinguish it quickly. I felt like I would choke on the smoke.
Within five minutes of returning from my mountain, everything changed and the reality of life set in again. I didn’t turn from my faith, but my relationship with my Heavenly Father stalled as my relationship with my earthly father began to deteriorate.
“Don’t let your hearts be dulled by… the worries of this life.” Luke 21:34
Toward the end of His ministry on earth, Jesus spoke about the end times and the different signs they would see. He warned His disciples to stay alert so they wouldn’t be caught off guard by His return. He knew how the worries of our lives can slowly dull our hearts.
I’ve never thought about my heart being dull, but when I think about it, sometimes it is. My faith becomes lackluster and my intensity is dampened. I’ll have a day of feeling so alive and ready only to be brought back down by the reality of what it means to be a human.
I can’t stop thinking about if I’ll have enough money. I obsessively budget and throw up a quick ‘please God’ toward the end of my tallying. I know I should spend time in prayer but I’ve been so stressed out I just want to watch Netflix. I’m worried about people thinking I’m an incompetent goon who’s a bad friend, but I don’t seek reassurances from my Father.
The Passion Translation takes the beginning of Luke 21:34 one step further:
“Be careful that you never allow your hearts to grow cold. Remain passionate and free from anxiety and the worries of this life.”
To be dulled is one thing, but cold? If I made a list of the most undesirable concepts, it would definitely be topped by my heart growing cold. I want to forever remain alive and excited, but life is really hard.
If I allow myself to be too consumed with my own problems and concerns, I will lose the spark inside of me. It doesn’t just stay lit because I prayed to Jesus at age 12. He isn’t in my heart fanning the flames if I refuse to help. I have to fight every day against my own anxiety and remind myself of the fire I carry with me all the time.
We are guaranteed that life will not be easy. Even if you’re literally born with a silver spoon in your mouth that makes you a YouTube celebrity as an infant, you’ll still have something to worry about. Something that will distract you from what matters, and if left unchecked, it will make your heart dull.
I’m not asking you to simply say your anxiety isn’t real because that’s ridiculous. I understand why you worry because I worry. The key isn’t to magically rid yourself of hardship, but learn to hold onto your joy and remember how it can fill you.
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Luke 12:34
Our hearts follow our lead. They see what matters most to us and make that their priority as well. When worry is your main focus, that’s what your heart will care about. It will love the control it feels like it has over your anxiety.
Keeping your heart bright and warm is a choice you have to make every single day. I’m going to do my best to choose joy over worry, treasuring what truly matters instead of what will quickly fade away.