Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. - Psalm 23:4
The valley. A dark and lonely place. A place of struggle and difficulty. A barren and desolate place. Or is it? Strangely, we often think of the valley in the negative sense, but do you realize that the valley is actually a place of fruitfulness and refreshment. According to the online dictionary, the definition of the word "valley" is "an elongated lowland between ranges of mountains, hills or other uplands, often having a river or stream running along the bottom."
"Elongated." Yep, that sounds like the valleys we're familiar with. Long. Trying. Arduous. How about "lowland." Definitely something we can relate to. After all, we've all been down. Down in the dumps. Down on our luck. Down in the mouth. Lower than low, right? But the definition doesn't end there, though our perspective often does.
"Often having a river or stream running along the bottom." Do you know what water is a type of in the Bible? The Holy Spirit. When we get low, when we hit bottom, when we find ourselves in the deepest of valleys, guess what we find? The Holy Spirit. He doesn't leave us. He doesn't forsake us. He doesn't force us to cope on our own. On the contrary, He stays by our sides so that we won't be afraid and so that we'll gain something from our time in the valley.
The valley can be a fruitful place. It is there we find life and growth. Remember the beginning of Psalm 23 where it says God makes us to lie down in green pastures and leads us beside the still waters. Well, where do you think you'll find those pastures and still waters? Not typically on the mountaintop. No, those are found in the valley. Comfort, refreshment and spiritual growth -- these can all be attained in the valley.
The valley also reminds us that sometimes God has to put us in a low place so that we have nowhere else to look but up. Our family can't help us. Our pastor can't help us. Our money can't help us. Our jobs can't help us. The valleys serve as a sobering reminder that without God we can do NOTHING. We can't face another day. We can't put one foot in front of the other. We simply cannot make it through without Him.
Isn't it good to know we don't have to?
The valley is a waiting room. Waiting for the mountaintop experience. Waiting for the next level. Waiting for the answers to our prayers. It is a place of prayer and praise.
"Praise?" you may ask. "What's there to praise God for in the valley?"
Hmm, where do I begin? How about with the reminder that God is good even when life isn't. When the valley is deep and the way is dark, God is still worthy of our praise. And don't be fooled into thinking that this valley of waiting applies to God as well. Yes, we're waiting, but He's not. He's working. Working for our good. Working for His glory. Working on us to make us what we ought to be. And for that, we ought to thank Him. After all, He could have simply given up on us. He could have left us to perish in the valley. But He didn't. And He won't.
The valley, my friend, is what we make of it. If we see it as a dark, desolate place, then that's exactly how it will seem. However, if we view it as a place of opportunity and a chance to grow in the Lord, our outlooks and attitudes will be brighter.
What will you make of the valley?