Any time I have the opportunity to take a commercial airline flight, I am freshly amazed at the view from 30,000 feet. While the details of what is on the ground don’t change physically, seeing them from cruising altitude provides a totally different perspective.
First, physical features like mountains, valleys, lakes, and tall buildings that seem so formidable from ground level appear much smaller from the window of a passenger jet in flight. The climbs and dips that seem so challenging on a long, slow drive through hilly terrain “flatten out” when viewed from far above. Mountains that tower above us and dominate the horizon from our auto windshield view look more like ripples when observed from miles overhead. Similarly, city skylines that loom large from car windows and take much time to navigate via automobile seem more like small silvery Lego stacks below as we fly past effortlessly.
Second, the relatively short distance we see in front of us from a car is dwarfed by the amazing views that spread out to the horizon all around us as we peer from a plane window. It is not unusual to be able to scan hundreds of miles in all directions. At times, you can simultaneously view the evening lights of multiple towns from above, even though they are dozens of miles apart. You can see what those on the ground cannot, even though the actual ground-level elements are the same.
It is important to note that God in Scripture encourages us toward a sort of “30,000-foot view” of our day-by-day life circumstances. It is not that God suggests our challenges and struggles are illusions; after all, Jesus told us in John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble.” The mountains we face—the challenges that rise to fill our windshield view and make life difficult to navigate at times—are a reality in this broken world in which we live. However, Jesus’ full statement in John 16:33 is this: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart—I have overcome the world.” The battles are real, but the victory is already ours, and we are reminded to process the struggles through that higher view.
Paul communicates this high-altitude perspective in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18. After sharing the realities of the suffering he faced as a servant of Christ in a broken world, he states that he does not lose heart because “…our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” The struggles are difficult, but when viewed through the wide lens of eternity, they fade into insignificance as we contemplate eternal victory in Jesus.
Allow me to share one more aspect of flying that fascinates me. No matter how rainy, snowy, or cloudy the weather on the ground, there comes a point on the initial ascent after takeoff when the plane rises above the cloud ceiling and breaks out into bright sunshine and blue sky. It is not that the clouds disappear—they remain below. The 30,000-foot view allows us to enjoy the sunlight and clear skies that are always there, even when clouds and storms obscure our ground-level view.
May God’s gracious reminders of His greater perspective be an encouragement as we navigate the challenges of day by day living. As I Peter 5:10 declares, “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast.”