A journey through a recent valley has left me wrestling with discouragement. While my natural inclination is to find a one-way ticket out of such places as quickly as possible, it seems that some things only become clear by trudging straight through it, in one weary, fear-inducing step at a time. At the beginning of the trek, I was mostly focused on the terrain – the trees obstructing my view, the dark paths hiding lurking danger, the hills that looked too tiresome to climb, and the mountains that just looked impossible. Then I understood how little control I had – how I was at the mercy of this place. I couldn’t make it an easier journey, and I didn’t have the ability to level the hills or knock the trees down. The valley is what it is, and I do not seem to get through it by wishing it was different.
I realized that to see God in the valley, I first had to look up – taking my eyes off the peripheral 360 views of disappointing or difficult circumstances, and focusing my attention on the truth of God’s character. In tilting my chin upward and gazing at truth, I can recall the God who loved me so much that He sent His Son to die in my place. (Oh, what love…) And while I had to look up to reorient my heart toward God, this reorienting had a lasting effect on how I viewed the valley when I turned my gaze downward again. Because focusing on God made me appreciate my smallness…and eventually, to reinterpret every obstructing tree and hill through the lens of a God who loves me – and yet allowed and orchestrated this very place for my good and His glory.
Perhaps the thing that brings the greatest measure of peace in valleys, darkness, and discouragement – has been the promise of God’s imparted Spirit who now dwells within me. I have sometimes felt helpless in my disappointment and in the sinful reactions I am tempted to have because of that disappointment. I can’t change my circumstances and sometimes I can’t even change how I feel emotionally – the valley reminds me continually of my weakness. But God did not leave me to resurrect hope where none exists or to fight against my sinful desires on my own merit. He gave the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit – to teach me, sanctify me, and remind me that He is my hope.
When I really stop and take this in, I’m left awestruck. Where I am powerless to change my circumstances, and yes, even powerless to change myself – God has provided His Spirit to do within me what I cannot. He gives hope when the mountains and trees still surround me; He increases my trust. And when I take the first step forward in worshipful obedience, He shoulders my weight. The tension of learning to prayerfully depend on God’s sustaining grace while also choosing to act obediently, gives way to a beautiful dance. He leads, I follow. I leap, He catches me. He pulls me in close, and helps me see that just as the mountains are His, the valleys belong to Him as well.
He is the God of hills and valleys,
ARH Staff Writer