Looking Up Or Down

I will lift up my eyes to the hills—from whence comes my help? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches will neither slumber nor sleep (Psalm 121:1-4)

When I was a teen, we visited Death Valley, one of the most desolate spots on the planet. All there is there is sand, salt, animal bones and wind – it doesn’t take long to see why it is named Death Valley. There is a point in Death Valley called Dante’s View, named for the classic book, Dante’s Inferno.

From this location you can look down to the lowest spot in the United States, a depression in the earth two hundred feet below sea level called Black Water Wash. There used to be water there, but it has since dried up and it is now a big hole in the ground made of rocks.

But from Dante’s View you can also look up to one of the highest peaks in the United States, Mount Whitney, rising to a height of 14,500 feet.

In one direction you move to the lowest spot in the United States, in the other, to one of the highest. From Dante’s View, only the traveler can decide which direction to turn.

Life’s like that, full of ups and downs: joys and sorrows, victories and defeats, gains and losses, good times and bad times, high times and low times. And though it’s not always easy, especially in the low times, we do have a choice. We can choose, with God’s help, to look up to the Lord for help and choose the upward way. We can turn every trial and loss into an opportunity for growth. You know the old saying:

    ‘When life hands you lemons, make lemonade out of lemons’.

Or we can keep looking down, give up, become disillusioned and pessimistic, and live in the valley of defeat and despair.

There are times when we seem lost. It is hard to find the way. Sometimes we go three steps forward and two steps backwards, but remember that God walks with us step by step. God has always been and always will be present with us.

What makes you feel secure: a good job, a good marriage, money in the bank? This all sounds good, but each of those material things that create the sense of security can be fleeting. We can lose our job, a partner can suffer a tragic illness or die, the economy can go south. Any of these could leave us in a state of despair and hopelessness if we let it.

If we lose all that, what’s left?

How about God in our lives?

How about the fact that our Lord is always with us, no matter what happens?

Happiness is not measured by worldly things. What happens here on earth is transient, just a fleeting second. But the love of God is constant. . . and eternal. When we are low, the best thing to do is make someone else’s life a little better by spreading love . . . God’s love.

Our spiritual life can also be a series of ups and downs. But God is always there with us. We don’t have to hurry, we only need to travel at our own pace and look to God for help.

I remember as a child, we were taught the Children’s Bedtime Prayer, which we religiously said every night before we went to bed:

    Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. . ..

This may be a simplistic prayer, but it still rings true, no matter our age.

God is always there, watching, protecting and loving us!

Let us pray:

Dear God, please help me to have faith and develop the upward look by always looking to you for guidance and help. Help me to see that all of my ups and downs help me to become a better and more fulfilled person. Help me to remember you are watching over me. Gratefully, in Jesus’ name, amen.
Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church, Columbus, OH 20 March 2011

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