The God of the Valleys
A man of God approached and said to the king of Israel, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Because the Arameans have said, “The Lord is a god of the hills, but He is not a god of the valleys,” I will give this great army into your hand, and you shall know [by experience] that I am the Lord .’”
1 Kings 20:28
The Syrians were a lot like many of us. They believed that God was in control only on the mountains and was absent in the valleys. We often believe that God is attentive and active when times are good and we are on the “mountaintops” of life, but we often see difficulties, or “valleys” as a sign that God can’t be trusted. In our age of affluence, many of us expect God to give us trouble-free lives of peace and plenty. But God often has a different agenda. He knows that faith is forged most often in the hot fires of difficulties, in the valleys of our lives, so He takes us into these valleys to build our trust in Him.
Will we find God when we’ve experienced a tragic loss through death, disease, divorce, or some other major setback in our families, at work, or in our health? Author C.S. Lewis famously observed, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” In the valleys, we may have to wait for an answer from God, but we can be sure the answer will come. God delights in revealing Himself to us. Sometimes He shows Himself quickly, and sometimes He delays for a while.
If you are in one of life’s valleys and are tempted to assume that Gods has abandoned you, remember He is the God of the valley just as much as the God of the mountain.
He who offers God a second place offers Him no place at all.
From our devotion yesterday, we continue our discussion of finding peace and security even when life is disappointing. David, the psalmist knew the wealth of the valley. As a Shepherd, he had observed that the richest grass and the thirst-quenching water was found in the valley and not on the mountain. To be sure the lofty mountains gave a sense of the majesty and power of God that David captured when he wrote, “I will lift up my eyes unto the hills.” But David found that though the sheep might wish to stay on the mountaintop, the scarcity of food and the lack of water would weaken them and without proper nutrition they would perish.
David often found himself in the valley of life, sometimes because of others but often of his own making. I’m not sure at what point in his life that he wrote Psalm 23 but the power of its revelation works still today. In Psalm 23 David uses the words, “He makes me lie down in green pastures.” What that says to me is that I won’t visit the valley on my own. The Shepherd must lead me there. The power of His leading me there is twofold. First of all I’m never in the valley alone. Even though it might at times seem to be so, we are not left to our own defenses in the valley. God is with us. Second, the valley is not a place of destruction but a place to feed our souls. Grass doesn’t grow on mountaintops, it grows in valleys. Now I’ve seen a few springs in the mountains but it’s in valleys that rivers flow. We might find a refreshing sip on the mountaintop but to drink our fill we must allow the Shepherd to lead us beside still waters and those waters are found in the valleys of life. David says the purpose of the valley is to “restore our soul.” Can you picture the sheep in the valley in waist-deep grass that borders a quiet stream of cool refreshing water? That’s the picture God is painting for us in the 23rd Psalm.
Life is filled with valleys, but it is also filled with mountaintops. It actually takes two mountaintops to make one valley. In our journey of life we will experience both valleys and mountains. I’ve done enough hiking to know that it requires strength to climb a mountain. To be sure, the climb is worth the effort. The view, the majesty, and the splendor that can be experienced on the mountaintop is often beyond description. The feeling of life on the mountaintop is an awesome feeling. None of which could be enjoyed without having the nutrition of the valley that gives strength. In order to experience the mountain, we have to make the valley experience one of gaining strength. Every valley God allows us to enter is filled with “green pastures” and “still waters.” We may be so anxious that we fail to eat and drink so the gentle Shepherd through His presence calms the storm in us so we can benefit from the valley. He knows that the next mountain we are to climb will require all our strength so He provides the manna of the valley.
For those who are in the valley of life and the walls seem so high, remember the same Shepherd who led you into the valley will also lead you out when your soul has been restored. He won’t leave you in the valley for He has things He wants to show you from the mountaintop view. He has you there to feed you, to increase your faith and strength for the journey.
After the great mountaintop experience, Elijah found himself in the valley of the cave of despair. He even told God that he was the only true follower. Isn’t it amazing that we often feel that there is no one else facing what we are facing. God gently tells Elijah that he’s not alone. In this valley of despair we read that something incredible happens to Elijah. God is not finished with him but he needs his strength and his soul restored. God sends angels to bring him food from heaven.
But he himself traveled a day’s journey into the wilderness, and he came and sat down under a juniper tree and asked [God] that he might die. He said, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” He lay down and slept under the juniper tree, and behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Get up and eat.” He looked, and by his head there was a bread cake baked on hot coal, and a pitcher of water. So he ate and drank and lay down again. Then the angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, “Get up, and eat, for the journey is too long for you [without adequate sustenance].” So he got up and ate and drank, and with the strength of that food he traveled forty days and nights to Horeb (Sinai), the mountain of God.
1 Kings 19:4-8
Do you see how that God met Elijah in his valley of despair, fed him, strengthened him so that he could travel 40 days and nights through the wilderness to the mountain where God would show him His purposes? And since God never changes, could it be that the valley you are in right now is to give you strength to climb up the next mountain of victory and blessing?
Dr. John Thompson