"But it is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that gives him understanding."
Job 32:8

Monday, March 18, 2013

Spiritual Valleys

Today I want to continue with the analogy I brought up last week about mountains and valleys in our Christian walk, and today, I really want to place emphasis on this because this is the part of our lives that, after a spiritual mountain where we've felt so close to God and so full of Him, that, once its over, we sort of see the next part as a curse when it should be a blessing.

Now, what am I talking about? I'm talking about valleys. But valleys aren't normally situations we imagine being times when we feel close to God. Let's think about this for a moment. As I talked about last week with mountains. Mountains are about being close to God, being surrounded by His glory, hearing His Word clearly in our lives.

Valleys? Well, Psalm 23:4 surely doesn't say 'Ye though I walk along the mountain of death.' No. When we think of the valleys in our lives, we end up thinking of the times filled with suffering and trials and pain. When we no longer feel that strong connection with God and the overhanging trees seem to block out all of the light. You can see the sort of spiritual symbolism I'm getting at here.

In our minds, valleys do not sound pleasant when it comes to our spirituality. But here's the thing: we need valleys. Why? Because fruit doesn't grow on mountains.

To paint a picture for you, when I think of this analogy, I think of the Himalayas. Snow-capped mountains, clear skies, the glory of God on earth.

But there's one problem. While it may be splendid, there's no actual fruit. In the same way, these spiritual mountains in our lives are incredible, but there's no spiritual fruit for us.

 Now, I need to clarify something about this. When I say fruit, I'm sure we quickly think of the passage in Galatians 5:22-23 which says,

"22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." (NIV)

And these are amazing, godly attributes that Christ lived out and that He lives out through us. 

But how do we often build up these attributes? Sure, we pray for them. But does God give us these attributes straight away?

While He is fully capable of doing that, God doesn't normally work that way. If I pray for patience, will I receive patience at a moment's notice... or will He send trials my way that lead me to rely on His strength so that I may build up patience?   

Romans 5:3-5 says, "Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us."

Suffering leads to perseverance, perseverance to character and character to hope. And in such a world full of sin and grief and suffering, isn't it an amazing thing to not only have hope but to be a beacon of hope founded on God?

We can pray for God to move us and transform us while we are on the mountain, but while on the mountain, there will come a point when He says, "Okay, I will transform you from glory to glory into My likeness, but you're going to need to go back into the valley so that I can build you up."

I hope you can begin to see how these valleys, though they appear daunting, are His doing and His blessing to us. But I understand if some of you may be wondering "But what if I won't know when the next mountain is or I lose hope that He can do this all through me?"

Exodus 24:18 tells us this, "Then Moses entered the cloud as he went on up the mountain. And he stayed on the mountain fortydays and forty nights." (NIV)

While on the mountain, Moses was sustained by God for forty days and nights without food or drink as another verse points out later in Exodus. Now, that's God's providence right there at work on the mountain. 

But what about Christ? Christ wasn't on a mountain, He wasn't even in a valley. He was in the desert, probably the worst place to be spiritually-speaking, for forty days and forty nights. 

And its as though God is saying to us, "Yes, I can do awesome things in your life and show you My glory on the mountain, but I'm also the God who not only commissions you back into the valley, but I will walk by your side even into the desert and do the impossible through you when you feel as though you can't take another step." 

Why? Because as Jesus proclaims to the Devil, in Matthew 4:4, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God." (NIV)

The connection that Moses had with God on the mountain is the very same connection you and I have with the same God regardless of whether we feel like we're on a mountain or in a valley or stranded in the desert.

He remains by our side through it all.

God bless you all.

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13 NIV

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