A picture tells a thousand words, so they say. It's a nice thought, but a picture doesn't always tell the whole story. I can't explain why, but it seems that every time I go on these travels, it becomes more than just a get away or a photo excursion.
The Christian life is a journey of challenges from within and without, and I am not an exception to this. The sinful flesh rears its ugly head all too often. Discouragement is another issue that creeps in. Whether it's from personal, local, national, or from the world, it can be easy to lose sight of our hope in Jesus, and focus instead on the problems of the day.
What does all of this have to do with this photograph? Well I want to point out a few things I think we can learn from the experience surrounding this shot.
1. The Joys of Heaven
Never have I had to push through as much as I did doing this hike. I started late, and was rushing to get to this point before the sun came up. It being an unofficial trail (nope not giving the name on this one, sorry, I'm siding with the people in charge there, who did say I could go, but I know they don't encourage it and so I won't either), it was not easy. I'm an east coast boy, so 9000 feet elevation is hard on the lungs. Oh have I ever mentioned I'm not exactly in shape? Yeah that plays into this too. Thankfully I wasn't alone. There was a group of guys that caught up to me and even passed me for a little. Most importantly though I have my Father with me.
If I wasn't rushed, it might've been easier, but I had to push through the wanting to quit before making it to the top. I almost fell while rock scrambling, I cut my hand, kind of wanted to puke, and well, yeah, I'm not making this sound fun. Honestly, it wasn't.
I asked God to give me hind's feet, referring to a verse that I don't think was meant for me in context (Habakkuk 3:19a), but it came to mind and it made sense. I need His help totally. I sung Leaning on the Everlasting Arms under my breath as I went.
Finally I neared the top. As I did, it's like all the fatigue and pain went away. I stood instead, amazed at the spectacle before my eyes as clouds hit by the rising sun covered the lit (lit by light, I'm not trying to be chill, or cool, or whatever it is the young people say now) face of a mountain above a beautiful lake, over 9000 feet in the air. The hunger and thirst went away and I tossed down my backpack, pulled out my camera and tripod, and hurried to get a shot, being quite thrilled along the way.
This life is hard. I think this year more than a lot emphasized that. But I know based on the promises of God in His Word, that one day every tear will be wiped away. There will be no more sorrow or despair. No more sin. And at the same time, all of that heartache will fall away paling dramatically in comparison to the awesome and amazing presence of our God, with Whom we who are in Christ will spend eternity.
"And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away." Revelation 21:3-4
2. The Joys of His Gifts
At the same time, God does provide us with some wonderful gifts. Our situations and circumstances are ever changing, but He does not, and we can trust that about Him.
"Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow." James 1:17
3. It's Not About Us
On a personal level I've been battling some self centeredness. Combine that with indecisiveness and you've got an unhealthy duo. But with it being brought to my attention, plus my own awareness of it, well, I have to go to God with it. It seems these kinds of things get brought up when I'm away.
Yet in my sin and mess and humanness, God is strong, and He has been so kind and merciful to me. He is faithful and uses feeble people for His kingdom. This life is not for our glory, but for His. He works all things for our good and for His glory. Our good isn't always a bed of roses. We have to deal sometimes with our own sinful nature, and trust me, it likes to stay around.
But God is gracious, incredibly so.
4. God is Sovereign
Another thing I believe God was showing me, and I hope I learned (dubious), is that He is totally and utterly sovereign.
There is not one aspect of this life that is outside of His control, and while I know that can open up a can of worms for some people, combining that fact with the rest of His character, we know that in all things He is working things out for the good of those that love Him.
As I said in the previous point that isn't always rainbows and kittens and puppy dogs. Sometimes it's grit and pain and struggle. Because He is molding us into the image of His Son.
That all being said, life in general is under His hand. As a photographer all I can do is my part, learn my trade, be in place, compose, and wait for the weather. If God brings about or allows a beautiful sunrise, well great. But if He chooses not to, is that not still the best He has for me? That concept is really not easy for the believer, especially when trials come, and I mean real serious ones.
Yet Romans 8:28 is in the Bible. And the Bible is sufficient and true. No I can't tell you it's easy, I'm no one anyway. But I know that He provides for His own, and His provision is best.
"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28
This particular morning, for reasons known to Him, He chose to give me the strength to get to the top of the hill, and to provide glorious light on the face of the mountains. He could've just as easily chosen not to. He is good, this I know, and either way was His best for me. Again, this is not an easy concept, I'm just sharing things I've been thinking about these past few days.
And so it all came to a head. My sin, God's forgiveness. My failings, God's providence. My lack of any real control, and God's total control. And so when I say that this was a physical, but even more so spiritual and emotional experience, you get a glimpse as to what I mean.
Does a picture say a thousand words? Sure. However the heart and soul behind it is not always heard or felt. But I hope that the glory and grace of God shines through in this image that pales in its attempt at showcasing the beauty of Him and the beauty He created.
Planning for a trip can be an exciting thing. However when the to-do lists come in, and all the prep work is finalized it can become hectic. Beyond that however in any age is the uncertainty.
Weather, illness, travel restrictions and changes, and cancellations all can put a halt to your plans. And after a rough season it can be very disheartening to lose that opportunity to get away.
Being the worrier that I am, all of those things are flowing into my mind steadily as I prepare for a photo trip coming up soon. With the current 'climate' (no not weather) it's hard not to let anxiety sink in, despite knowing that whatever happens is God's best for me.
One thing that I believe God has been helping me with (yeah, I'm no pro at it) in this crazy world is not holding on so tightly to this world, as well as looking ahead to a trip that can't be cancelled.
My life here however long it may be is only a blip on the radar of eternity. When I'm called home, whether in death or rapture, I'll be in a place infinitely better than any vacation spot, or amazing photographic locale.
It's been an interesting journey for me personally. Death, the rapture, end times... It's always been a struggle in my mind. I know we are to look with joy to His return, and don't get me wrong, I do, and the more time goes on the more I do. Yet at the same time I think it's easy to want to experience life here.
I guess in writing this however I realize the one thing I'm leaving out. It's not so much the where, but the Who that I will spend eternity with: God.
Let that thought sink in, Jeremey... (and ya'll reading this).
I could write a lot more on this subject, but I don't want this to be overly drawn out. I'll just say, if you're in Christ, regardless of where you are in life, you have an eternity with Him waiting for you. As Peter encouraged the persecuted believers in his day:
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you," 1 Peter 1:3-4
Let me finish by saying what needs to be said. If you've not repented and placed your trust in Jesus Christ, then unfortunately you have no reservations in heaven. Jesus explained He is the only way. Please go to the home page and either watch my testimony video or read what's written there, or both. It isn't too late for you, and nothing you have done in your life can keep you from Him if you'll repent and put your faith in Jesus Christ, bowing the knee to Him.
"Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation."
A thought I often have when I look at photos I have taken of waterfalls, is the seemingly never ending flow of water. Yet at the same time, this flow does fluctuate, sometimes even drying up totally. Typically this time of year this particular river gets quite low. However due to recent rains it was roaring.
I know that I'm not alone in this, but recent situations both nationally and personally have begun to wear on me. At times things can seem unbearable even.
Yet the last few days the text from 2 Corinthians 12:9 has been coming to mind, reminding me that the grace of God does not dry up.
"And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me."
In this verse we can learn quite a bit actually. We see God as the source of grace. This grace an outflow of His very nature (Exodus 34:6, Psalm 116:5), given freely as a gift (Ephesians 2:8-9, James 4:6) shown in His sovereignty (Romans 11:5, Ephesians 1:4-6), and displayed in the person and work of Christ (John 1:17, Romans 3:24-25).
The word "is" in the phrase "My grace is sufficient" shows the availability of this grace. It doesn't say that it was, or will be, but it IS sufficient. His grace is constantly available, His saving grace to those that come in repentance and faith, and continuing grace for the life of the believer.
For me though, where I think I tend to struggle is with the next word... Sufficient.
Sometimes, as in Paul's case and by extension us, we are to endure trials. And so sometimes the answer to our longing for an immediate escape is to simply and solely rely upon the grace of God, knowing and trusting that it really is sufficient. I don't know about you but sometimes (i.e. most of the time) I feel the need for 'more', forgetting that His grace really is enough.
Yet there's also a purpose to it. In view of this verse we see that in the weakness of man, God is shown to be strong. God in His wisdom chose the lowly things of this world for His purposes (1 Corinthians 1:26-29). Paul also writes:
"But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves;" 2 Corinthians 4:7
In our weakness, God's power and grace are magnified.
This leads to a way in which we can say with Paul: "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13) , knowing that God gives grace upon grace (John 1:16).
So, as the song beautifully puts it:
"Grace, grace, God's grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within
Grace, grace, God's grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin"
"Grace Greater Than All Our Sin"
Words by Julia H. Johnston (1911). Music by Daniel B Towner (1910). Public Domain.
Sovereign Grace Music, a division of Sovereign Grace Churches. www.SovereignGraceMusic.org.
"Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation."
by: Jeremey Voit
Jeremey is a photographer based in the Mid-Atlantic U.S. He loves travel, nature, and experiencing and sharing the beauty of God's creation.