Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain. Isaiah 40:4 KJV
Discouraged? Feel that your valley is so long and dark that you’ll never make it to the next peak? Ever wonder if it’s worth it? If you answer “yes,” you’re perfectly normal—nothing more or less. A lot of folks become Christians with wrong impressions of what the Christian life is all about. I’m never quite sure whether the confusion is the result of the rhetoric of the one who encouraged them to embark on the path of faith, or else they have unrealistic expectations of what the journey is about because they haven’t read the tour book—the Bible.
If you were to ask me to describe the major theme of the letters which come to us, I would say, in one word, disappointment—disappointment in the Lord, their mates, and the circumstances which life has dealt them.
Helen Roseveare was a medical doctor who spent most of her life ministering in Africa. She set out with unrealistic expectations as to what she could accomplish and what God was supposed to do. Through failure and disappointment—perhaps such as you are facing—she learned something of real faith in the real world. In her book “Give Me This Mountain” she wrote, “I have often felt that my life was rather akin to mountaineering, with a clear goal to reach the highest peak. There may be a fairly long journey to reach the foothills before the real climb can be started…. I found frequently that I climbed in glorious sunshine, warm and invigorating, my face set determinedly for the nearest peak I could see. As I reached it, I reveled in the sense of achievement and victory.”
If you were to ask me to describe the major theme of the letters which come to us, I would say, in one word, disappointment
Then Helen says, “As I went down from the present peak into the valley between the mountains, I was often shadowed by the very peak I had been enjoying. This I interpreted in a sense of failure and this often led to despair…. I see now that I was wrong in this ‘feeling.’ The going down was merely an initial moving forward towards the next higher ground, never a going back to base level, so to speak.”
Did you grasp what she is saying? When you stand and look at a range of mountains, you see the peaks, not realizing that between them are long valleys, sometimes darkened by the shadow of the great peak you’ve just climbed. That’s translated into the weariness of getting up in the morning, traipsing through life, doing the carpool, the commute to the office, and arriving home tired and discouraged, only to start the process all over again.
The important thing, though, is that in the climb you never go back to base camp, to the point you were at before you started your journey, whether it is a mountain climb or your spiritual walk.
The valleys are not sensational. How can they compare with the heavy air, the exhilarating view from the peak, the thrill of achieving as you stand at the top, your goal achieved? Ah, but it is in the valley we learn the importance of plodding, of taking another step, of facing another day, of finding God’s grace to get the kids off to school, to handle the traffic, and to cope with the frustrations which you face at the office.
The fact of the matter is that there are few real mountain peaks in life when the air is clear and you are heady with success. It’s in the valleys where we live and raise our families, where we find that God’s grace is sufficient and we learn to trust Him for our needs. As David put it, “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” (Psalm 23:4). Interested in knowing more about how God can meet you in the valley? Then make a study of the 127 times you find the word valley used in the Bible. There is more to life than the thrill of reaching the top. It includes the satisfaction of the journey, knowing that He who has already traversed the valley walks with you. Knowing that changes everything.
Resource reading: Psalm 23.
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