I want to pitch out another “go” phrase to you that you might not be as familiar with as the ones we have recently talked about. This phrase is: “Go through the valley.” People don’t use it that much, but I have heard this phrase before when people are describing times of difficulty that they are or were going through. As a geographical valley dweller myself, I can appreciate a valley location. There is the beauty of the mountains all around, and the wide open spaces of flatland that enable us to view a gorgeous sunrise or sunset. However, one thing about living in a valley is that you can tend to feel surrounded and caged in. The air can be thick and often too warm. A weekend escape to the mountains is inviting especially in the dry heat of summertime.
As I write this I am working my way through a spiritual valley in my life. Isn’t it interesting how every mountain top experience seems so brief while every journey through the valley seems so long? While we are on the mountain, we feel so close to God, we can see the way before us as clear as the horizon and the thinness of the air makes it so much easier to hear His voice. But it never lasts long enough. In my walk with Jesus I have noticed that He takes me from one mountain top to another through the excruciating hikes along the valley floor. Hikes that involve life’s circumstances closing in on me, crisis arising that make the air thicker than I am used to and relationships that distract me from watching where I am going. My once straight path appears crooked and the mountain off in the distance looks suddenly so much larger than I can handle. In frustration I can practically defeat myself before I even get started. Jesus graciously gives each of us a choice after each mountain top experience we have with Him. A choice to sit and wallow, looking behind at that mountain and longing to climb back to where we were or to go through the valley in order to see another view He has been eager to show us.
The psalmist David was familiar with valley travel. He writes in Psalm 23:4 “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Even David knew that the key to surviving the valley was to walk through it. We need to remind ourselves when our journeys wind up in the heat of the valley with no end in sight that our Lord is with us to comfort and protect us. If the valley is dark, His Word is a lamp to our feet (Psalm 119:105). 2 Corinthians 1:3 tells us “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,” and Psalm 91:14 encourages us with these words “Because [s]he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver h[er]; I will protect h[er], because [s]he knows my name.”
While it has been true in my experience that every mountain-top with God has inevitably led to a long travel through the valley, once in a while God allows me a gradual descent into that valley. This is a sweet descent that allows me to hold on to my strength in Him and by faith go vigorously through the valley until we get to another glorious mountain top experience. Most of the time, however, my descent resembles an old nursery rhyme you may be familiar with: Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water, Jack fell down and broke his crown and Jill came tumbling after. I find myself up on the mountain top fetching my pail of living water only to come tumbling down even before I have had enough to drink; and, even worse than that, sometimes I take a few close friends down with me on the way. We can all praise God though because as long as we abide in Jesus, our “crowns” are not merely our heads, they are “crowns of life” that will never break. You and I, my dear follower of Christ, will one day have the awesome privilege of casting our crowns at His feet as He sits high and exalted on the last mountain top we will ever have to climb because He promises us in His Word that one day – “Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places shall become level ways, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” Luke 3:5-6
Did you catch that first part of the verse? “Every valley shall be filled.” One day there will be no more valleys in our journey with Christ, beloved. In the meantime, however, be encouraged to go through whatever valley you might be in right now because your mountain top experience is just a few more steps away.