Everyone experiences different seasons in life. Some people may be experiencing joy, blessings and prosperity right now. Everything seems to be going in their favor. They see never-ending horizons, endless possibilities and opportunities, and glorious radiant sunsets over crystal clear and calm waters. They can bask in the sunshine and warmth and feel the afterglow in their hearts. They can almost see the presence of God reaching down from the heavens gently caressing them in His love. They can taste the warm milk and honey flowing freely from their green pastures, fruitful vineyards and fertile fields. They feel so full of energy and life that they could climb the nearest mountaintop and sing so the whole world can hear them. They want to dance underneath the full moon as its illuminates the night sky. They are unstoppable and idealistic. They see the glass half full in every situation and pour out encouragement from their lips. Their words are like rain on a parched desert landscape. This is their summer. They have reached the mountaintop and stand upright on the highest pinnacle.
Too often in life people tumble from the mountaintops into the valley down below. Ominous clouds move in and block the sun. There is no warmth. There is only the sting of the frigid wind and bitter cold. There is no comfort from the ice and snow. It seems to drag on forever. It is so dark that the faintest glimmer of sunlight is a welcomed delight. They are wrapped in so many layers of clothing it is reminiscent of their heart condition. Their hearts are covered and entangled in doubt, insecurity, anger, malice, jealously, envy, resentment and bitterness. They forget what is is like to feel weightless and naked. They carry their burdens like heavy chains attached to ironclad balls. They feel like their Lord and Savior has abandoned and betrayed them. They do not see His face nor His hand. Everything they touch withers and dies. They try in vain to escape their suffering to no avail. They cry out to God, but they seem to hear silence. They drag their feet through the mud and slush, one foot in front of the other, not knowing where they are going or when they will be attacked. They have lost all hope and their words are like poison. They trudge onward feeling weary and defeated. This is their winter. This is their dark valley.
The winter and summer seasons could not be more different! Praise the Lord each season of life is not carried on to eternity. The seasons of life eventually turn. Winter turns into spring, spring into summer, summer into fall. They happen gradually and they never leave without you experiencing their full effects. Imagine if God made only one season. It would eventually get old, even if it was your most favorite season. Human beings eventually desire change. Sometimes we all wish we could stay on that mountaintop and learn everything from up there. The view is so amazing and breathtaking. How can God speak to us so clearly anywhere else? Oh, but He does! Some lessons in life can only be experienced in the dark valley down below. God can seem so far from us when we are in the valley. We can deceive ourselves into thinking that He does not care for us. We can become so bitter when we see the prosperity of others. We forget that other people have been in the valley down below too. We are not the only ones in this dark place.
Do you find yourself in the dark valley today? I write to you from the valley itself. I’ve been down here for awhile. I desperately long to be a mother. I have experienced the pain of losing babies twice now. I’ve heard the news I cannot try for children naturally again, lest I lose my life. It’s too risky…and all too devastating. My surgery–scheduled months in advance–that could have given me answers to my life-threatening pregnancies was cancelled last minute due to an insurance snafu a few weeks ago. Now I must start all over again with a new doctor. Some days it feels awful to be down here. Other days God shows me His love and beams a ray of sunshine in my direction.
I take comfort in knowing that other Christians are down in the valley with me. When we find each other we cling to each other tighter than moss on a tree. We can share each other’s pain and struggles. We encourage one another and seek out others in the valley too. Once you’ve been in the valley for awhile, you adjust to the change in light. You can see the dark shadows of predators lurking nearby. The slightest sound grabs your attention. You learn to see God in a new way; to hear His still, small voice in the darkness; and even a little crumb from heaven becomes gold in your hand. You drink and drink and drink from God’s Word when you find the nearest stream. You never feel satisfied and you go back for more. You bring others with you to this sacred place until they too have tasted its waters. You use your sword to fend off the creatures of the night. You train others how to walk through the valley.
We walk by faith not by sight! Though we do not see what lies ahead, we know the valley ends somewhere. The winter season will eventually turn to spring. We know God is pruning us now so we can flourish later. He is stripping us down to the bone so who we really are is exposed. Our roots are growing deeper and deeper as we withstand each storm. The barren earth is not only covered with cold and ice, it is being nourished and watered. When spring comes we will sprout from the ground like never before! God is slowly loosening the hardness in our hearts and tilling the ground. He is fertilizing the dead soil there with His Word and by His love. He uprooting the ugly weeds and replacing them with tiny, beautiful seeds of His Truth. God is chipping away the old sin nature with His chisel. It is more painful than words can describe. It hurts when the layers are peeled off like an orange rind. Our nakedness is exposed and we shiver in the cold. But God wraps us in His arms of love. He sits beside us and offers us a warm cup of comfort. He whispers softly in our ears as we strain to hear a word, any word from Him. We are never alone in the valley, though it seems that way some days. If we draw near to God–despite feeling fear and despair, without knowing all of the answers, even where to take that next step–God will draw near to us. He will shed enough light in a darkened place to help us move forward a little at a time. He will offer a rainbow in the stormy sky, a cardinal in the snow below, and peace inside of our hearts.
God has a plan for you! He does all things in His time! No matter what your age or circumstances, God makes all things possible. He can move mountains. He has given sight to the blind and helped the lame to walk. He has cast out demons from the possessed. His son was born to a virgin. Jesus has overcome sin and death and saved the world! He has offered us salvation and given us the hope of eternity. There are no impossibilities with God. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. His throne is mightier than humans can fathom. His love is beyond comprehension. His words are like water to our souls. His power is greater than anything on Earth. When we are walking through the valley, we need God! We cannot rely on our own strength to succeed. The valley will suck everything out of you until you have nothing with which to fight. Even then you will still be attacked. You need the Armor of God to fend off evil in the valley. Just keep going and eventually you will learn to rely on God to make it back to the mountaintop once again!
God knows your pain. No pain, no gain. Sometimes the greatest lessons in life are learned through pain. Often we grow in our faith when we we suffer. God doesn’t allow us to experience anguish because He doesn’t care for us. He loves you! He wants to be near you and to comfort you through your suffering. God knows your road hasn’t been easy. God is teaching you and maturing you along your journey! You character is being strengthened. You are learning to die to self and live in Christ. The old man must be rid of and the life of Christ must be embraced. We will always have peaks and valleys in our lives. This is how God stretches us. This is how we become more like His image. This is how we see more of God Himself.
God is using your story to encourage and bless others facing persecution! Share your valley journey. Others may just be entering theirs, and they need to hear from you. You can help prepare them for this long and arduous journey ahead. In churches people love to expose the world to their mountaintop views. But people need to see what the valleys down below are really like. They need to know that others are in the valley or have survived their winter. Jesus knows what it is like to experience intense suffering, loneliness and abandonment. He knows the horrors of betrayal. Yet He remained loyal to God to the point of death on the cross. He drank the cup of wrath for our sins. He was separated from God for the first time and cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus loves you very much! Jesus has been in the valley too. His valley was far darker and more painful than ours will ever be. Jesus knew full well when He entered a virgin’s womb how His dying breath would be taken. Jesus left the throne room and the splendors of heaven to live a life of humility and sacrifice for you and I. Run to Jesus when you are in the valley. Lift your voice up to Him in prayer. He always listens and He always gives us an answer. By faith we put one foot in front of the other and keep going each day!
I pray right now for everyone walking in the valley and the winter season of life. May the Lord show each of you that He is there beside you. He is looking out for you, and He knows the ground you are standing on. May the Lord comfort you in your pain and anguish, teach you to cast your burdens upon Him, give respite for your weary soul, sing over you in the night, protect you from harm, encourage you with His Word, and show you His face.