Some of the most beautiful flowers in all of creation grow at the bottom of the most treacherous and dark valleys. Very few people find them because we are all so focussed on climbing back up the mountains.
I have heard this so many times. I have preached it and encouraged others with these words. But when you are the one at the bottom of the valley, trying to drag yourself through the mud and focus through the fog – sometimes you just want to slap the person who would suggest you look for flowers! But then it happens. You find one – usually where you least expect it and when you are close to giving up.
This flower is so out of context to your current life and experience and yet there it is – unfolding right in front of you and nobody but you and God can see it. It is just for you – just for that moment in time. You can ignore it, trample on it, despise it or … you can stop and behold its beauty and realise that God placed that flower there just for you and if you let it fulfill its purpose, it will change your life.
I have not had a lot of ‘flower in the valley’ moments in my life, but the ones I have experienced are memorable and have defined my life, my ministry and my view of God. Once I finally fall on my face in the mud, surrender to the fog and tell God I have really had enough pain, betrayal, disappointment and heartache … then it happens: the flower blooms and everything changes – in an instant.
So let me encourage you fellow valley-dweller. If you are not there now, you will be at some point and when you get there – don’t be so focussed on getting out. Let the valley do its job. You need to find God in that valley in a way you will never find Him anywhere else.
There are few things more crucial to us than our own lives. And there are few things we are less clear about. This journey we are taking is hardly down the yellow brick road. Then again, that’s not a bad analogy at all. We may set out in the light, with hope and joy, but eventually our path always seems to lead us into the woods, shrouded in a low-lying mist. Where is this abundant life that Christ supposedly promised? Where is God when we need Him most? Has God abandoned us? Did we not pray enough? Is this just something we accept as “part of life,” suck it up, even though it breaks our hearts?
After a while, the accumulation of event after event that we do not like and do not understand erodes our confidence that we are part of something grand and good, and reduces us to a survivalist mind-set. I know – we’ve been told that we matter to God and part of us partly believes it. But life has a way of chipping away at that conviction, undermining our settled belief that He means us well.
What is really going on here? Life is brutal. Day after day it hammers us until we lose sight of what God intends toward us and we haven’t the foggiest idea why the things that are happening to us are happening to us. Sooner or later our life’s journey will take us through dark valleys. It’s during those times that we need to learn how to find God and experience His peace and joy.
Psalm 23 is an amazing collection of words. We would do well to read it every day of our lives and allow its truths to burn deeply into our hearts and minds. Why does the Lord sometimes allow us to go through valleys? Because it’s easy to forget about Him when we live comfortably on the mountains.
Valleys are beneficial: “Whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything.” ( James 1:2-4 )
Valleys are inevitable: Jesus said: “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” ( John 16:33 )
Valleys are unpredictable: “Now when He got into a boat, His disciples followed Him. And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves. But He was asleep.” ( Matthew 8:23-24 )
Valleys are impartial: Jesus taught that the floods of life come against those who obey His words and those who don’t obey. The difference is those who obey will have their house standing when the flood is over. ( see Luke 6:46-49 )
Valleys are temporary: “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials.” ( 1 Peter 1:6 )
Valleys are purposeful: “These trials are only to test your faith, to show that it is strong and pure.” (1 Peter 1:7)
If you are going through a valley in your life right now then I have three things to say to you:
- Refuse to be discouraged. ( 1 Samuel 30:6 )
- Remember that God is with you. ( Isaiah 43:2 )
- Rely on God’s protection. ( Psalm 91:1-2 )