VALLEYS AND HILL TOPS
Years ago, people used to love singing hymns. Their words were meaningful and sprang to mind during life’s ups and downs. Remember these words, “There is a place of quiet rest, near to the heart of God… A place where sin cannot molest… A place of comfort sweet… A place of full release.” Wouldn’t it be wonderful to continually rest in His presence? While we know in our minds that as those saved in Christ we are always close to God, our emotions can be a different matter altogether. Haven’t we all experienced times of feeling far away from God when immersed in the hustle and bustle of life? Sometimes we need a holiday from our ‘busy-ness’ to draw close again, and that holiday may come in unexpected ways.
There was a time in the not too distant past, when I was doing a lot of good and necessary things. I was getting too busy to spend time with God. Slowly but surely I felt myself slipping further and further away from His presence. My leash was getting too long, and I didn’t like it. Finally I begged God to draw me close again, and guess what happened: I ended up in bed. Lying there with a back injury was anything but what I would have called a holiday, but it stopped me in my tracks and gave me plenty of time to think. After a few days of misery, when the pain suddenly became too much to bear, God showed me His love by miraculously taking away the fiery darts. As I said, this happened only once, but I was so grateful for the reprieve that it became a spiritual turning point. Didn’t I call on Jesus for help immediately after my injury? Yes, I did, but it took five days and the stripping away of the last shreds of self-reliance before I felt near to the heart of God once again. And then, of course, I couldn’t stop praising him. My enforced holiday had done its job.
Sometimes I think I should be more careful about what I ask for (like the woman who asked for patience and received tribulation!), but then I realise that God always knows what I need and only ever has my best interest at heart. While this may require a wake-up call or a time of chastening, I can be assured that all of His corrections work together for my good. Why? Because He loves me with a love that is far greater than any human love could ever be. Jesus proved it by dying for my sin.
In hindsight, it has never been the hill top experiences that have brought me nearest to the heart of God, but those in the valley. Mind you, I love the mountain tops! Whenever I see other people become aware of their sin before a holy God and turn to Jesus for forgiveness, I cannot contain my joy (and neither do the angels in heaven). During an ‘ahh…’ experience of gaining new insight from Scripture I am ecstatic, and when I notice God’s work in my own life or in that of others I am thankful. Who would not love the mountain tops? Yet despite their joys they are dangerous places, for when things go well, we tend to walk in our own strength. Self-reliance, which is nothing less than pride, can so easily exert itself and take back control of our lives.
Yes, on the hill tops I am glad to be God’s child, but in the valleys I learn to walk with Him – if I am prepared to learn lessons instead of asking, “Why me?” in self-pity. Many Christians have confided that their lives, too, tend to be a bit like a roller-coaster, and that it is during the down-turns that they feel their greatest need for God and draw most closely to Him. As a matter of fact, my only outstanding experiences of God’s peace have happened while going through those valleys. I am not talking about a generally peaceful feeling, but about a profound experience of peace that does not depend on circumstances but rather exists in spite of chaos and surrounding pain.
And so it is in the ebbs of life that I have learnt about the necessity of valleys for the process of becoming more like Christ. It is here that God has shown Himself to be all-sufficient for any situation and I have experienced Him to be all-powerful, all-knowing and ever-present. He is the mighty Creator of the Universe who says, “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his night, nor let the rich glory in his riches; but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD, exercising loving kindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth, for in these I delight.” (Jeremiah 9:23-24)