When I imagine a valley I see lush green meadows, fertile soil, babbling brooks, grass blowing in the breeze and mountain views. I think of the beauty God created and am in awe. Not only did He create majestic mountains but also peaceful valleys and they come together to form this earth we know as home. Though very different, both are beautiful and needed for our world to thrive. God created both for our enjoyment. Similarly, life has it’s high and low spots, and we’re intended to experience both. We can easily get the notion that joy is only experienced when life is lived on the mountain top with no view of the valley. All of us want a life journey free of pain; no one prays for hard times. However, if we are+ not wise with our time spent in the valleys we might wonder why they even exist. God is intimately involved in all of our lives and cares very much about the paths He leads us down. There is a purpose behind painful moments; He uses the trials in our live to refine us and if we are receptive, we’ll gain wisdom through our time spent in the valley.
I am not much different from you, dear reader. I did not ask for the times of trial in my life, but like all of us I find myself in them from time to time. Sometimes we know hardship will come; other times it sneaks up on us and we are suddenly thrust into the middle of them. Regardless of our awareness, God uses it. It’s up to us how we will respond during adversity. God has graciously used such instances in my life to grant me wisdom I would otherwise never have gleaned. I am someone who feels and thinks deeply. I do my best to not let life lessons go unrecognized. God gives us wisdom, if only we will be prudent enough to ask for it. I don’t want to squander moments in the valley where there are lessons to be learned; there may be opportunities that have no other way of presenting themselves.
Our Christian walk is built on lessons God teaches us. We have heard it said that if we are not learning we are not living. I believe this is true no matter what spiritual terrain we walk (mountain or valley). 1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” One of the ways we can live this command out is by being open to the lessons God chooses to bring into our life. I believe there is benefit in sharing these lessons, so today I have chosen a few of the lessons God has taught me through the valleys in my life to share with you.
The most important thing we need to remember during adversity is that God is Holy and All Knowing. He doesn’t just throw us into the fire to watch us burn. I really cannot say this enough, there is a purpose for the pain. Romans 8:28 tells us that God works all things together for those who love God, and to those who are called according to His purpose. All things, not just the mountain but also the valley. I have learned to not question God when walking through these times. The “why” question didn’t used to be far from my lips but I now through the grace of God have turned my complaining into praise – not because I enjoy hardship – who does? – but because I know God is accomplishing His purposes through me. Also, on this side of heaven, we’re not going to understand because we’re not meant to. It is easy to question God because we only see a piece of the puzzle; we have to remember that God has the whole puzzle in His hands and He lovingly puts into our life whatever piece fits best.
I have learned there is a certain type of joy even in the valleys. A common trap we can fall into is walking through a hard season and losing sight of the joy and beauty that are omnipresent. I think of when David wrote the 23rd Psalm. He was facing death (verse 4- “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…”) and yet this psalm shouts God praises. That very same verse goes on to tell us that God was with David in this time. Ann Voskamp in One Thousand Gifts is quoted as saying “the secret to joy is to keep seeking God where we doubt He is.” God will never abandon us and therefore there is always joy. While the thing that is causing you pain hurts and is not joyful, God knows that and grieves with you. There are joyful moments in the midst of our pain and when we block out the pain we end up blocking out the beauty. I have learned that all my days are beautiful, blessed days. Not because my life is perfect -trust me reader, I have been broken – but because I choose to see Gods fingerprints.
I have learned that God is not finished with me, or any of us. How often do we experience something painful and pray that our feet will never touch the valley floor again? We forget that the soil is often most fertile here, that God is cultivating our hearts. We will not be ‘finished’ until we are in heaven and knowing that, there is the guarantee that life will present us with more time in the valley. We praise, because we trust God. We know that He is preparing a place for us so that when we are finished with this life, “the God of all grace who has called you into His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” (1 Peter 5:10).
Finally, I have learned a love for God I would have not otherwise known if I had not endured the refining fire. He has broken me to fill me with His glory. We are sinful creatures who cannot stand before a Holy God. I can only turn around and offer praise that God would bring me through the fire to draw me to His side.
So dear reader, can I encourage you, next time God places your feet on the valley floor. Stop and look around a little. Take time to breathe in God’s glory and know that He is there with you, and that there is wisdom He has for you to collect even there.