HELPING OTHERS ACROSS THE “MOUNTAIN OF TROUBLE AND DESPAIR”
No-one willing wants to find themselves on the “mountain of trouble and despair”. However, God not only promises us that He will be with us, will keep our feet firm and will hold us from falling even though we stumble, but He also promises that He will turn all of our experiences on this “mountain” to our good. What we are going to discover together now is that not only does He make all things work together for our good, but that He will use our experiences to help others when THEY find themselves on the “mountain of trouble and despair” – that we are best equipped to bring God’s good for them as well!
And perhaps a good way of understanding this is to look at…
THE INTREPID ADVENTURES OF “
SCOTT OWEN OF THE ANTARCTIC”
If you know that you are faced with time in the Antarctic then who better to ask about what you will come across than a man who has spent time there – and our very own Owen is the man to ask. Maybe these would be some of the questions that you could bring to him:
- How long were you in the Antarctic and what is your greatest memory when there?
- It looks a beautiful spot Owen – so what was it? A holiday that you went there for?
- Now, I’m really asking these questions on behalf of Helen – she’d love to go there as, I understand, her favourite animals – Pelicans – can be found there…
- Oh! I mean Penguins ! Will she find any of these there and how would she know that they were close by?
- Well…photos that I have seen show the Antarctic to be a beautiful place – looks sunny and quite warm. Can you tell Helen what it’s really like there?
- So…a couple of extra jumpers heh! Or…what might she need to take to prepare her?
- Helen likes walking on her own – is that OK once she is there?
Well…what is clear is that if you ever go to the Antarctic then it is best to be well-prepared to cope with this awesome, awful, lonely, beautiful but bleak place. And who would YOU choose to advise you how best to cope? Me or Owen??? And who would you choose to go with you? Me or Owen???
The answer is so obvious – and it is so with life. We all go through experiences – in work, in relationships, in health and in wealth – and God is with us to bring us through these times. And the experience that we gain, and the lessons that we learn, best place us to help those who are going through similar times and troubles.
The message is clear: when we have been over the “mountain of trouble and despair” we are best placed to help others as they go over it too. It has been rightly asked “who is the best person to help someone who is addicted to drugs?” The answer is “the one who has been on that road themselves but has now come through it”. “Who is the one best able to help the one who has suffered loss?” The answer is “the one who has themselves suffered loss”.
The Biblical evidence for this is seen in the life of that greatest – but most humanly flawed – of kings of Israel – David. Let us pick up the story at the time when, as a young man, he faced the giant, Goliath:
1 SAMUEL 17
1 Now the Philistines gathered their forces for war… 2 Saul and the Israelites assembled and camped in the Valley of Elah and drew up their battle line to meet the Philistines. 3 The Philistines occupied one hill and the Israelites another, with the valley between them.
4 A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. His height was six cubits and a span. 5 He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armour of bronze weighing five thousand shekels; 6 on his legs he wore bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back. 7 His spear shaft was like a weaver’s rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels. His shield-bearer went ahead of him.
8 Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, ‘Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and let him come down to me. 9 If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.’ 10 Then the Philistine said, ‘This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.’ 11 On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.
26 David asked the men standing near him, ‘What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?’
31 What David said was overheard and reported to Saul, and Saul sent for him.
32 David said to Saul, ‘Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.’
33 Saul replied, ‘You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a young man, and he has been a warrior from his youth.’
34 But David said to Saul, ‘Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, 35 I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. 36 Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. 37 The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.’
Saul said to David, ‘Go, and the Lord be with you.’
The Israelites had a big problem. They were literally camped on the “mountain of trouble and despair” – and going nowhere. And we have seen that you can’t just stay where you are – you have to go forward or you have to give up. And they were on the point of giving up.
Then, along came this young man – a mere youth we think – David. Paralysed by fear and despair in the face of the giant, Goliath, the people were collapsing. God took this young man – and used the experiences that he had gained in the pasture – to lead the Israelites off of this “mountain of trouble and despair”. It was BECAUSE David had already faced these troubles (with the bear and the lion) and it was BECAUSE David recognised it had been the LORD who had enabled him to get across his “mountain of trouble and despair” that David was able to help others – to walk with them and to lead them.
And this is so for me and for you as well – God will use our experiences to help others across.
2 SAMUEL 5: 1-2
All the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and said, ‘We are your own flesh and blood. 2 In the past, while Saul was king over us, you were the one who led Israel on their military campaigns. And the Lord said to you, “You shall shepherd my people Israel, and you shall become their ruler.”’
David was prepared for his purpose as the shepherd king of Israel through his experience as shepherd of his earthly father’s flocks as a young man.
Psalm 78, speaking of David, says this:
He chose David his servant
and took him from the sheepfolds;
71 from tending the sheep he brought him
to be the shepherd of his people Jacob,
of Israel his inheritance.
72 And David shepherded them with integrity of heart;
with skilful hands he led them.
In both these examples we see God using David’s experiences to equip him for service.
In the same way, the one who has been over the “mountain of trouble and despair” is very often the one best equipped through experience to guide and help others over that same awful mountain. So…don’t try to get over that mountain on your own! God will bring into your life one who will walk with you and guide you (in the Name of Jesus) over that “mountain of trouble and despair”.
We are promised (in Romans 8: 28)
“that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”
This is the sure and certain hope that keeps us going while we are deep in the “mountain of trouble and despair” – that God will bring good out of the most awful of times.
But this truth is not just for us – but it is for others too. God will not only bless us in the long term but will bring good out of our troubles in our being used to bless others who are suffering trouble in the same way. Oh! what a blessing!
In our last session we were reminded of the ordeal of Joseph. When he endured firstly slavery in the house of the Egyptian Potiphar and then endured the horrors of an Egyptian prison God used it for his good and raised him up to be the Prime Minister of Egypt. But this was not just for his “good” but for the good of the whole of Egypt (who were saved from starvation during a devastating famine) and the good of his whole family too – which is why he was able to declare
“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50: 20)
Our experiences in the past equips us to support others in the future.
I thank God that He has blessed me with others who can walk with me over the “mountain of trouble and despair” – wise and experienced people – my “Aaron and Hur” who can hold me up when I feel like falling, friends who can encourage me and provide for me and support me as I “press on towards the goal”.
And I thank God that I can help others and will be able to help others in the future, who are having to go across the “mountain of trouble and despair”.
To summarise all of this what is better than the words of Paul (as we were reminded at this morning’s service by Chris) as spoken to the Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians 1: 3-7
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. 6 If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.
APPENDIX: “CAN I WALK WITH OTHERS ACROSS THIS MOUNTAIN NOW?”
This whole message has been about God using for the good of many the experiences that we have had in the past.
But what about NOW? When the dwarves and hobbits crossed the mountains, they did so together. They were all in the same trouble together. They were all scared. They were all in danger. They were all uncertain of whether they would ever get to the other side.
Can it be that I say “I am travelling on the mountain of trouble and despair right now – why not come with me if you are travelling over the same mountain – let us go together”.
Well, it does sound reasonable and it may be what happens. We cannot limit what God chooses to do.
But we are called to be wise.
Is it wise for two stumbling people to cross that mountain together? Is there not the danger that, tied together, one might fall and drag the other one over the precipice as well?
Is it wise that a drug addict be supported by another drug addict? Will not one fall back into their habit and drag the other one down as well?
Sometimes you WILL go across the “mountain of trouble and despair” with another one who is experiencing the same problem – this might be your spouse or your work-colleague or your friend. If so…make sure that your focus is not on each other but on God as your guide, your helper, the One who will keep you from falling when you stumble.
But, the wise and general principle is that WHEN you have experienced the “mountain of trouble and despair” THEN you will be best placed to be the servant of God in helping others to get over this situation as well.