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The Low Side of High

Looking back, seems to me that I’ve been slow to learn that coming down the mountain can be more dangerous than the climb up.

Yet, now it seems fairly clear that,

  1. For the inexperienced, accomplishment can lead to pride.
  2. To the road weary, a recognized achievement can morph into physical, emotional, and spiritual exhaustion.
  3. For the grateful, experiencing God’s help in unusual ways can raise doubts about whether he could “do it again.”
  4. For the hard and conscientious worker, self-sacrifice can result in feelings of future entitlement.

The Bible may have been telling us all along to “watch that step down.”

After the power of the Exodus, Israel found themselves in a wilderness wanting to go back to Egypt (Exod 14:11).

After praying fire from the sky, and killing the prophets of Baal, Elijah ran for his life and wished he could die (1Kings 19:4).

After Solomon built the temple and a reputation for unparalleled wealth and wisdom (1Kings 10:23-24), he built pagan altars for his foreign wives on the hills surrounding Jerusalem (1Kings 11:1-8).

After Peter promised the Lord that he was willing to die for him (Luke 22:33), he denied three times that he ever knew Jesus (Luke 22:55-60).

That may be one reason the temptation of Christ tests the Son of God at what would have been-humanly speaking– a most vulnerable moment. It was after hearing the Father say, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased”, at his baptism, that Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil (Matt 4:1).

Am not saying… to expect the worst after good times, or that we should become fearful or superstitious on the heels of success. Neither do I want to minimize the danger that comes with profound periods of disappointment that leave us confused, fearful, angry, beaten up, and feeling sorry for ourselves. Just wondering whether you also have seen from your own experience, and in the Bible, why its important to remind one another to “be careful” and to “watch your step” when coming down the mountain (or tree).

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35 Responses to “The Low Side of High”

  1. SFDBWV says:

    Well done Mart. This is the voice of wisdom. As difficult as it is to do, to live one day at a time makes the road back down the mountain less steep.(sometimes)
    I will remember todays topic.

  2. bretnb says:

    I know,I can let pride in when I am not careful.

    It made me think of many of the professional sports figures. They get so prideful and let their God given talent go to their heads. I hate to see people brag on TV how great they are.

    I guess it helps me to know that I need yo be humble.

  3. billiards12 says:

    Thanks Mart for the gentle reminder. I am a professional billiard player who has a billiard ministry. God has chastened me many times as I have let my God given talent lead me to walk ahead of God. I am looking to climb back up the mountain as my wife who has been separated from me for 19 1/2 years has returned just 8 weeks ago. I will remember the trip back down!

  4. lfmundy2002 says:

    It is always sad to see or hear of people that are rich, and have God given talents looked to themselves as obtaining their riches themselves.

    They have become boisterous and high-minded with self-pride, some even forgetting Jehovah God and have sought and accepted other gods.

    Seeing some rich persons doing abominable things make me humble myself the more, and serve Jehovah God only.

    Mark 10:24c, 25 makes me think of the words of Jesus of the parable of the rich man going through the eye of a needle. If that does not make the rich think twice, then, they have become angels of Satan and his ways of deception.

  5. refump says:

    #1 & #4 above seem to be the ones that I struggle with. I think it is the inexperience WITH accomplishment that causes the problem with pride. Accomplishment is so rare that when it does occur I want to make sure everyone knows about it. Christians suffer from low self esteem anyway for some reason. We are quick to forget where our strength comes from & are so desperate for the “praise of men”. We tend to live our faith in theory world that when a test like this comes up we usually fail until we have some experience with accomplishment & begin to be on guard for when pride starts to raise it ugly head. The standard of hard work is often measured against our fellow workers & since that standard is very low these days it is easy to feel like you deserve more & a sense of entitlement but when we measure our work by God’s standard we suddenly lose that sense of entitlement. Let God be glorified in all that I do & say at work today!

  6. poohpity says:

    When ever I say I would never do that I find myself doing it. When I say I finally understand the next time I get faced with the same situation I find I do not understand and repeat the unlearned lesson again.

    It would be nice if I repelled gracefully down a mountain and remember the experience with a humble heart but instead like the Somalian cat I run down the tree head first and usually bang my head and get all bruised up. I then say to myself, “Self thought you learned that one but obviously you haven’t”. This walk with the Lord is really a process and I continue to get processed daily. Thank God He gently restores us as Jesus did with Peter after the denial.

    He does not beat us up, He gently restores. Gal 6:1-4; 1Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. 2Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else,.

    The Lord reminds me continually much to my chagrin that it is a full time job to watch out that pride does not creep in because it all ways does some how. I know I have the Holy Spirit living within me, so why can I not emulate the humility of our savior. The process continues.

  7. Rick123 says:

    1. For the inexperienced, accomplishment can lead to pride…Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.(1Ti 3:6)

    2. To the road weary, a recognized achievement can morph into physical, emotional, and spiritual exhaustion…Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke [is] easy, and my burden is light.(Mat 11:29,28)

    3. For the grateful, experiencing God’s help in unusual ways can raise doubts about whether he could “do it again.”…[Let your] conversation [be] without covetousness; [and be] content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.(Hbr 13:5)

    4. For the hard and conscientious worker, self-sacrifice can result in feelings of future entitlement…Then came to him the mother of Zebedee’s children with her sons, worshipping [him], and desiring a certain
    thing of him. And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom. But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able. And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but [it shall be given to them] for whom it is prepared of my Father. And when the ten heard [it], they were moved with indignation against the two brethren. But Jesus called them [unto him], and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.(Mat 20:20-28)…Rom 9:11 (For [the children] being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)…So then [it is] not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.(Rom 9:16)

  8. SFDBWV says:

    I am reminded of Ecclesiastes 3:…Everything not only has a season, but also has an oposite.

    What is the conclution of the matter?

    Ecclesiastes 12:13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:Fear God and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.
    :14 For God shall bring every work into judgement, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.

  9. chapmartin says:

    I have sometimes fought feelings of forebodding, depression, frustration, anger, or a case of the meloncolies not long after something good has happened in my life. One hopes to struggle through these times and not let it color how I treat others. While I do not understand all of why, I have not put it together with these particular scriptures in this manner. Will be food for thought for a long time.

  10. mtman says:

    Let me add another dimension to your comment about going up and down mountains. Since I live on the side of a mountain and we hike to the top on occasion we have some experience there.
    The view from the top of a mountain is spectacular. Beyond verbal explanation. The time to hike up to the top takes 1 1/2 hours. The time to hike down takes 45 minutes with all the hazards that can make the hike down dangerous. Stones and pine cones roll under your feet, etc.
    So while the climb up the mountain takes more effort and time, the time coming down is faster and more dangerous. There is no view from the bottom of the mountain. I think that fits into your comparison and is easily related to our Christian walk.

  11. poohpity says:

    I wonder if there is ever a time when our spiritual walk becomes more of a level ground where the mountains are not as high and the valleys are not so low. A time where we no longer struggle but are content and just glide along the path that was laid before us. Resting in the miracles and realizing that many miracles hide but they are still happening and just total trust in what lies ahead and it all will work out. I want to be there.

  12. poohpity says:

    I wonder if it isn’t us who creates the mountain and valley experiences instead of a blessed assurance and serenity.

  13. SFDBWV says:

    I think that without the stress of highs and lows We do flatline and therefore are no longer growing.

    There are many desciptions on tap as to what our spiritual exersicing is. One is the story of the master metalergist, who puts the raw ore into the fire the turns up the heat when the dross comes to the surface he scrapes it off. Then turns up the heat more and more repeaating the process until the metal is just right. Only the master knows when that time is to pour out the finished product.

    I must learn to accept all of the ups and downs of my spiritual walk and in so doing know that God is still at work with me.

    Love to all

  14. abalderama says:

    I am most humble Mart, you hit the nail on the head on all topics. Thank you for feeding me this morning! God Bless all of you

  15. Mart De Haan says:

    mtman, great picture. Thanks.

  16. chgogirl says:

    Thanks for articulating this! I am not superstitious. I have just learned that whenever I have the privilege of experiencing God’s presence in an overwhelmingly powerful and transporting way, I need to baton down the hatches because a test or trial is right around the corner – usually within 24 hours!
    The only explanation I have come up with for this phenomenon is that God is drawing near in an unusually close and tender way in order to strengthen and refresh me for what lies ahead.
    “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.”
    1 Kings 19:7

  17. sjd says:

    I have been amazed through the years how quickly the low side can be reached. Those “pine cones” can catch you off guard.

    That is why it is so important to always have that “armor” on, and to be so feeding on every Word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. Following the example of Jesus and His communion with the Father, I must learn to be totally dependent on my Lord.

    Being aware as chgogirl relates, is wise, drawing near to God always, yet maybe clinging tighter when we are at the height of our “experience”. The higher we are, the farther the fall.

  18. dependent says:

    Thanks Mart for articulating so well what I have discovered are common pitfalls in my own recent experiences returning from short, intense forays into third-world mission fields.

    It is a spiritual high to experience the extra dose of grace that enables one to minister effectively when dunked into the uncertainty, danger, and discomfort of a starkly unfamiliar culture. Most times there is an exhilirating and almost tangible sense of grace and empowerment when thrust into situations where reliance on God is less of a choice than a practical necessity.

    Coming home exhausted, jetlagged and excited with vivid memories of God’s harvest field always seems to be accompanied with these pitfalls of “coming” down the mountain. I can better relate to the Lord’s frequent escape to be alone after he ministered to the masses.

  19. marian shaw says:

    It was said in “Don Quixote” that “it sometimes pleases God to help fools” . After a long recovery period from an accident, I returned to a job as docent. Naturally, I felt less than self-confident, even after review and was concerned that on the private group tour, the “audience” would expect the best.. Somehow, though, step by step my script came back, and I asked people on the door for their input. It seems this was a cooperative job. I also had my prayer beads in my pocket. I thanked everyone for the pleasure of their company, and went home with the private understanding that the Lord does not expect you to bat 100 per cent every time. It is both prayer and work, but accept that circumstances at some times may be more favorable than others.

  20. poohpity says:


    I do not believe it is flatlining it is called contentment. No matter the circumstance to have so much trust in the Lord that we become secure rather than a rollercoaster.

    The exodus rather than continuing to trust in God’s care they began to doubt.

    Elijah after seeing the power of God began to doubt.

    Solomon after experiencing wisdom from above began to doubt and took on the god’s of his wifes and concubines.

    Peter after believing and understanding the identity of Christ doubted when he was witnessing His crucification.

    So what I was trying to say was that instead of having the ups and downs of mountain and valley experiences but to have trust and faith that doesn’t falter when anything happens it stands firm and unwavering.

  21. saled says:

    Mtman, my mountain climbing experience has been different than yours. A few years ago, my family drove up Mt. Washington and then decided to hike down from the summit to the top of Tuckerman Ravine. It didn’t appear to be far, but within five minutes, my leg muscles were burning from the steep descent. It took me about an hour to get near Tuckerman; I didn’t actually make it there. I sat down and watched the rest of the family finish. I was afraid that if going down was that difficult and took that long, I would never make it back to the top. What a great surprise to find that the climb up was actually much easier and completed in about 20 minutes. Dangerous in both directions, especially to other hikers who might be in the path of anything that we accidentally dislodged.

  22. Rick123 says:

    When climbing up to the mountain of the LORD. If we forget that it was by the wings of his Spirit that we got up there, we will suffer shame and lost. We should always keep in mind that it is by Christ’s Spirit, for the flesh profits nothing…Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts…So we should always be decreasing, and he must always be increasing in us.

    Pro 16:5 Every one [that is] proud in heart [is] an abomination to the LORD: [though] hand [join] in hand, he shall not be unpunished.

    Why did Jesus defeat all the insinuations of the devil? because of his love for the truth of his Father. He used his Father’s (S)word to slice up every insinuation that came from the devil. He was totally dependent upon his Father’s strength through his Holy Spirit to get him through(Mat 26:38-42; Jhn 5:19; Jhn 5:30; Jhn 8:28), when the enemy came in like a flood.

    Jesus decreased and his Father increased in him, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.(Jhn 3:30; Phl 2:8) We should be clothed with the same attitude(mind) of Christ, and follow his steps, for he is our example.(1Pe 2:21)

  23. mtman says:

    saled: most times going up or down can be a challenge and you have to always be careful. The mountain we live on gets steeper as you go up and the last few hundred yards is very steep with loose shale. Since we are in the West the air gets thinner as we go up. When we lived in Penn. the mountains there were 6,500′ and not as steep. Our home is at 9,750′ and it goes up from there. Even in good condition you are short of breath due to the thin air. The endurance to get to the top is worth the hard slow effort. The view from our mountain top is spectacular. We can on a clear day see for 40 miles.
    Coming down is another thing on a very steep mountain. Loose rocks, pine cones, mountain juniper that catches your boot laces and a host of other things can cause you to fall and if you do it may be 100 + yards to get stopped. We hang onto trees on the way down for stability. Hiking in the mountains here is somewhat different than other places I have hiked. The mountains in New York, Penn, N. Carolina, Georgia are not as difficult but you don’t have the view. I challenge anyone who wants to see a view that simply makes you inhale and hold you breath to hike the Colorado mountains. It is a close to God experience. I think you would like these mountains better than your described experience. You get to the top and don’t want to come down. Thank you for sharing that experience and may you have many more mountains to climb.

  24. daisymarygoldr says:

    A very puzzling subject…Why would anyone want to come down a mountain? Christian life itself is a spiritual pilgrimage that involves ascending the mount…. i.e. it is an upward journey.

    Of course, the upward journey is no fun… and sometimes like the children of Israel it helps to sing the “songs of ascent”…but when the climbing gets really tough and my heart grows faint… my prayer is always for God to lead me to the rock that is higher than I…

    …and in answer to that prayer He strengthens me and makes my feet like hind’s feet… and sets me upon high places. Sorry, I am totally lost on this one… the only thing that’s making sense to me on this page is the picture of the cool cat climbing down the tree… and so, even if this topic is making me feel so spiritually dumb…the cat has made me blissfully happy!

    Oh yes, if we climb the heights of our own success… and take pride in what is accomplished by our own human efforts and begin to rely on our own strength, then we will experience the low side of our high… and then we should “be careful” and “watch our step”… but as long as we are abiding in Christ… there is no reason to look back or climb down.

    I know nothing about spiritual highs and lows and plains… it almost sounds as if following Christ is like some kind of a psychedelic experience…

    Anyway, IMHO the very purpose of every spiritual test is… not to bring us down but to lead us to the next higher ground/level. So, as I climb higher and feel intense pressure, I know that I must not give up… but keep pressing on because… it will surely lead me to a wonderful mountain top experience!

  25. HEY REV says:

    I did not want to respond but as I read what those above shared their gloden nuggets I wanted to say a little.
    I’m sure all of us at different times can relate our experiences about mountains, hills, etc. I have mine. Some were great some I want to forget.Put them alll together and most were somewhat of a struggle to go up, easier coming down. From what most of you are saying you had your own very personal experience that gave you positives and negatives. Put them all together and we come out pretty much the same. Good and bad.
    I remember one, that taught me a life lesson
    Did the trip (up and down) three times during a whole day outing.
    The first was easy on the way up,and the same down.
    Second was a little harder, but harder coming down because I allowed myself to go with the gravity coming down and lost control with the speed. Almost killed myself.
    Look out nbr three. You would think I learned by two previous tries but no not me. I wanted to show others I could do it.
    Let me avoid all the sorry news, but they carried me out to the rest area in a make shift strecher. What did I learn I could share to help others. To add what rdcomp says and SFDBWV about ECCL Chap Three
    That one experience (stands out the most for me) and many of the others put together is I can do NOTHING WITHOUT CHRIST Phil 1:21
    I will always have my ups and downs because of my mistakes and life in general. I accept that and continue to pray to have more ups than downs.
    God bless you all for God is using you to teach me new things and reminders about the past things. At 72 you would think I’ve learned most things. No not yet at least not the NEW THINGS.
    Let me finish with a line a wise mentor brother taught me goes like this:

  26. violet D says:

    I feel compelled to share what someone told me years ago – “Without valleys- there would be no mountains”.
    When I have experienced “valleys” the above thought has helped me through.
    Psalm 121:1 is one of my favorite verses and says it all!

  27. phpatato says:

    I’ve got a childhood ditty in my head that I’m humming as I vacuum.

    “Climb, Climb up Sunshine Mountain, Heavenly breezes blow.. Climb, Climb up Sunshine Mountain, faces all aglow.. Turn, Turn from sin and doubting, Look up to the sky.. Climb, Climb up Sunshine Mountain, YOu and I…


    I hope to add to your comment. I am wondering if our spiritual walk isn’t about looking at climbing back down the mountain when we are on top. I wonder if our walk is always climbing up without reaching the top. Puts me in mind with the saying, Two steps forward and one step back. You are always stepping one step forward, hence inching slowly up. When a child of God falls down, they only fall as far as the nearest plateau. It is there where God is waiting to pick you back up and brush you off, hold you tight and wipe your tears. Hopefully you take the time to gaze at the view (smell the roses), see how far you’ve come and take stock of what your journey has been like. You assess the path upward to ensure you don’t take the same path again and with a deep breath wearing the armor that God has given you, you begin once more.

    Just my thoughts which may be way off base. :-)

    P.S. There is a mountain in the Canadian Rockies called Sunshine Mountain. Great skiing I am told. I don’t do skis until they install brakes on them.

  28. rokdude5 says:

    One person that comes to my mind that “was on top of the mountain” yet fell is King Solomon. The Lord blessed him beyond what one would expect by praying for wisdom in guiding his kingdom.

    Perhaps its the naivete in me, but I would like to think that Solomon married all those women as a sort of welfare for them since abandoned or widowed women at that time would have no source of income other than begging and prostitution.

    Nevertheless, I think God started withdrawing Solomon’s wisdom when Solomon started praying to those women’s pagan gods and Solomon’s world collapse around him.

    During my twenties, I quit going to church and reading and I practically ended up like Solomon – a spiritual destitute. However, the Good Lord kept a watchful eye on me and broke me. Now I realized this is why I need to read the Bible DAILY and go to church weekly.

    Like Mtman, the view on top near where I live is spectacular but when I look below I see air pollution all around which is sort of what my spiritual walk is like.

    Also the climb is easier up when on the trails if the terrain isnt too steep. The climb down can be tricky if you step on a stone or ground that all of sudden give way. Hiking enthusiasts now carry a sort of ski poles to aid them with their hike on such terrains.

    Not only you have to watch your feet but you need to keep a watchful eye for critters too. Last week when I was hiking, I saw a doe and her fawn climbing the side of the hill quite aggressively. Five minutes later, I saw a cougar down in the creek bed. The wind was blowing that day and those deers were way high and downwind trying to lose the cougar’s scent of them.
    The cougar saw my buddy and me and coward away from us. Perhaps we saved that fawn’s life.

  29. wretch-like-me says:

    Thanks all for sharing.
    Somedays I read and respond.
    These past couple I just read and weep.
    Memories, joyful and bittersweet, I look forward to the ultimate ‘Mountaintop Experience’ to which we are all destined.
    God Bless Us, Everyone!!!

  30. foreverblessed says:

    Hi everyone, what chicogirl wrote I have experienced too.
    When God gives me a great moment, like as being in heaven, His love for me is so real, and so close.
    The next day some big trial happens, I am being tested. God warms me beforehand.
    But I dont think this is what Mart meant.
    More about being on a mountain top, and we get over- enthousiastic, and do not cling to God so much anymore.
    It is when I was in art school. When my paintings would be good, I felt good and thought: boy am I good. And sure enough, after that my painting would be terrible.
    The best paintings are made when feeling uncertain.
    I think it is the same in christian life, as JoJo wrote: being totally clinged to God, and not relying on self.

  31. daisymarygoldr says:

    Peter had confidently boasted in his human strength… to lay down his life for the master. Elijah had basked in his awesome victory over the prophets of Baal. Solomon’s wisdom and wealth had dethroned God within the temple of his heart… and yes, after the power of Exodus… a fearful Israel wanted to return to the old comfortable slavery of their past but… when they saw the great power the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, they feared Him and put their trust in Him. (Exo 14:13)

    Have been thinking real hard and long about coming down the mountain… after reading all the inspiring comments about hiking and skiing… Seems to me that the low side of high is for the ultimate good… lest we get filled with pride and… fall… just as the thorn in the flesh… the low helps in busting all of our boasting in the high!

    Also, it is true that while hiking up a mountain I do slip… so, you are right we should “be careful” and “watch our step”…and as others have pointed out, there could be any number of reasons (gravity, pitfalls, stones, pine cones, etc, etc.) for me to come down. However, my confidence is rooted in God’s promise that though our feet may stumble… we will not fall!

    I’m sure everyone is familiar with the picture of the father walking along with his little child… holding hands as they walk side by side. Occasionally, the child will stumble and will let go of her father’s hand. However, she will not fall because the father’s hand holds her up.

    The Bible says that “…though the righteous… fall seven times (which means unlimited number of times) they rise again. You know why they are always rising? …because they never fell in the first place! You know why? …because it is the Lord that holds them by the hand! (Psalm 37:23-24 NLT)

    So, as long as we live in the flesh we will stumble in our weaknesses and experience the low side of high… its OK because after all it is for our good… spiritually we should feel secure… because no matter what… “He is able to keep us from falling” (Jude 24)!

  32. BabyJ says:

    I don’t know, I am little late in the conversation but I agree with the story about climbing and then falling to a plateau. To me the whole journey of christian growth is like climbing a mountain or running a race. If we are growing, the longer we excercise our faith, the easier it is to excercise our faith.

    When I make mistakes, its not that I have lost belief, its more that I have not learned how to use my faith muscle in that particular way yet. So the lesson is retraining the muscle to be used in a “different” exercise.

    I feel like every time I think I have learned some life lesson, the minute I say, ” Yes, I get it now!” God tests that confidence. After the fact, the situation is so clearly related to my declaration that I see how I should have responded to it. But when I am in the test, the logic of “this is a test” just doesn’t apply.

    Just my two cents worth……

  33. Bonnie Dickinson says:

    I sort of like the comment made by “rdrcomp” posted 6/9/09. It does seem that way at times….that the Lord has a way of “getting our attention” (my paraphrase) from time to time. For instance, somewhere I have not been devoted to prayer as I should and “down side” things are beginning to happen–depression, speculation, worry, etc. I never ever turn away from the Lord, I just seem to “relax” @ times.

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