The lowly valley – dry and dreary – void of life and sustenance. Despair hangs in the air – thick and suffocating. The winding path ahead feels twice as long as the path behind and you’ve already reached your point of sheer exhaustion. Oftentimes, God teaches us our most profound lessons of faith and perseverance not when we are sitting along the warm, sunny hillside, but as we walk through the bleakness of the oppressed valley.
The wondrous hillside would not magnify the splendor of God’s majesty without requiring our eyes to gaze upon the valley
Having spent my own sufficient amount of time following God through the valleys, I learned that while it may seem that we “walk through the valley of the shadow of death,” there is life to be found – planted, cultivated and preserved. We often don’t know how we end up in the valley, but the valley doesn’t merely exist for us to always understand.
As we wrestle with our burning desire to flee for the hills and away from the valley as quickly as humanly possible, sometimes God keeps us a while longer so we can stop running in circles and just remain still. Without knowing the way, our stillness forces our perspective not only towards what lies behind us and before us, but to closely observe the valley around us. And in those still, quiet moments, we discover that we are not abandoned. God was indeed right there the whole time.
“Don’t fret in your valleys. Farm them.” – Lester Roloff
So perhaps the secret to learning the lessons in the valley is resisting the urge to sulk in our own feelings of discouragement and frustration. Rather than barrel through the valley with clenching fists, we ought to pause, open our hands and cultivate. Every season provides new opportunity to reap a rich harvest of His lessons and His presence. In every valley – as we thirst for answers – there is something to be found, if only we sit still long enough to discover them.
I can testify that I have basked in the presence of God the most during the sun’s absence. Within the darkness of the dry valley – when we feel the most powerless – God demonstrates His divine authority and grace. The valley is not a time to retreat, worry, and doubt. It’s a time to press in to God. Only then can we stand the chance to unveil His glory and His purpose for leading us there.
In Psalm 84, David writes, “blessed are those whose strength is in you (God), whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.”
The Valley of Baca – also known as The Valley of Tears – was a very dry wasteland and therefore incommodious for travelers in those hot countries, especially during hot seasons. The journey through this squelching, desolate valley was an incredibly difficult highway for those trekking towards Jerusalem. How appropriate the valley is also known as “The Valley of Tears,” considering it’s the valleys in our life that often bring us to our defining points of pain and sorrow.
David writes in this Psalm that on one particular journey, Jewish travelers, who were passing through the Valley of Baca on their way to the temple of Yahweh in Jerusalem, chose to relinquish their struggle to press on and did the unthinkable. Through eyes of faith, they wisely concluded that maybe the valley was not just simply meant for us to aimlessly pass through. Maybe there was more than meets the eye.
Instead of seeing the valley as the abandoned, death-ridden land it was, these travelers dug and cultivated the earth until their efforts led them to cisterns supplied with life-giving water. God honored their efforts two-fold by multiplying the valley’s water with the help of the autumn rain. God-given life had sprung up in the midst of what seemed like a forsaken valley. Not only did these pools provide necessary water for these weary travelers, but it encouraged more people as they made their way to Jerusalem.
As we walk along our own journey through the valley – if we stop searching for the exit door, remain there and farm the valley instead – we not only find our source of strength, but we encourage the many other weary travelers who are also making their long journey through their own valley.
While everyone’s valleys may be distinctly different from one to the other, God can use the valley to replenish our strength and our faith in Him. If we are willing to cultivate the valley, He will surely cultivate our hearts. And if we allow God to dig through the dry, weary, dusty soil of our hearts, He will fill our cisterns with His Spirit – the living water – so that we are full of His blessings and wonder as He continues to pour into us in our most desperate time of need.
Even when the road is winding and we feel as though the mountain is far in the distance and we find ourselves walking from one valley to the next, we can go from “strength to strength” if we learn to find God where we’re standing. Sometimes we have to dig to find our answers. But when we seek, we shall find. We find His truth, His promises, His provision, His faithfulness – right there in the valley – He brings forth life.
And perhaps one day, as we rest upon the hillside with a new vantage point, we can look down at God’s splendor in the valley and exclaim, “what great things He has done.”
The Humble Homemaker