“After six days, Jesus took James, Peter and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone,” -Mark 9:2
Oswald Chambers tells us that “we all have experienced times of exaltation on the mountain, when we have seen things from God’s perspective, and have wanted to stay there” (story of my life).
But, the bottom line is that God never intends for us to stay there. If He wanted us to remain on this lofty mountain, never enduring any hardships, then we would already be in Heaven.
As a baby Christian, I found myself being daily overcome with joy and disbelief at the volume of love that Christ would pour over me every time I sat with Him in the silence. At least twice a week I was in tears and at least once every day I would send mass texts to my friends about the insane things God did for me that day.
These revelations and blessings and gifts didn’t stop. Sometimes I would freak myself out and say “wait, if I am getting all of these good things in such an extraordinary way in such a short amount of time, then something bad must be coming around the corner. God must be giving me a soft cushion right now, so that when things get worse, I wouldn’t be totally annihilated.”
From May-August my life continued on in this fairy tale style love affair between me and my Creator, with no end in sight.
I guess you could say I was on the Mountain top, or, as my blog suggests, in the Vineyard bearing the best of fruits from the Mighty Vine.
But, here I am, now submerged in the Valley.
I couldn’t tell you exactly how I got here or what I did to deserve it, but I can tell you it’s hard. In the vineyard, I was with the Lord. I was with other branches whose only goal was to bear fruit. Every branch around me was encouraging me to grow stronger, to root deeper into the Lord’s soil.
In the Valley, however, it’s different.
There are thorns, there are ditches, there’s grass taller than I am. But, there are also flowers, and patches of brisk greenery.
The farther I travel in the valley, the deeper it gets, and the harder it is to see the mountain top I once so happily sat on.
At times, it gets dark. Really dark.
It gets hard to see even what is directly in front of me or on each side of me.
I allow myself to get so frustrated and confused that I mistakenly sit in that frustration in confusion, continually pointing my circumstances and shortcomings and my inability to do anything well to myself instead of to my Maker, the only One in whom I can truly do the things He asks of me.
It’s soul sucking and miserable, this time in the Valley. It’s heart wrenching and defeating.
But, until two days ago, I didn’t realize what else it was.
It’s an opportunity.
The Lord puts us in the valley because the Valley is where the real lessons are learned. It’s where our stamina and character are built. It’s where we are able to apply the knowledge the Lord gave us out of mercy and grace on the Mountain top and apply it to our circumstances.
My friend wrote a reflection on the Multiplication of the Loaves and mentioned a noteworthy point: in this particular story, Christ had the intention of teaching Philip a lesson, as he does in most of his actions. But to my surprise, the lesson Christ was teaching Philip was the lesson of faith.
Until reading this, I never thought of faith as being something that had to be taught. I always just thought faith was faith. You either had it or you didn’t. This is only partially true.
Faith is a learning process, it’s also a growing process. Especially, in the valley.
The Valley, though, comes in many different forms. For some, it’s the untimely death of a family member. For others, it’s the challenge of figuring out who you truly are in high school or adapting to the college life and the responsibilities of adulthood. Or maybe even a failed marriage. Or, as I learned over the course of the past few months from my great grandmother’s friend, the Valley can be sitting in a nursing home for years, wondering what purpose is left in your life and why The Lord in all His mercy won’t just take you.
Whatever the Valley may be, no matter how steep, how lush, how barren, the point of our being there is to teach us to keep going. No matter what The Lord allows us to endure we must do exactly that, endure, with our eyes locked on Him, trusting in His sovereign plan, willing to let Him take us deeper by relinquishing our thoughts, worries, circumstances and even our plans to Him.
The trek through the Valley is arduous. But the farther we walk with Christ as our guide, the closer we get to those mountain top moments, but to get there we have to first go uphill. We have to endure and be humbled and learn the things that The Lord has planned for us before we can responsibly and effectively put into practice the knowledge He longs to give us.
Christ desires for us to be just as He is, and He has every intention of sanctifying us in every way until we are completely and totally one with Him, in stride with His ways always.
So we shouldn’t dread the Valley, we should welcome it and cherish it and thank God that He loves us enough to not leave us as we are, but to challenge us daily and teach us His ways, which are beyond compare when it comes to the ways of this world.
And when it seems like the thorns and the ditches will go on for miles, The Lord sees our weariness and has green grass and flowers planted exactly where and when we need it.
*We can’t walk on the water, if we first don’t dare to take a step of faith.*