I have a beautiful memory of a trip to Colorado. The snow was falling as I landed in Denver and it continued to fall as my hosts drove me up the mountain to the retreat facilities. When the late night session was over, I stepped out of the worship center to go to my cabin. What I saw stopped me in my tracks and took my breath away. As I had been speaking the snow had stopped and the sky had cleared so that now a full moon shown down on the new-fallen snow. I’m not enough of a poet to try to put into words the exquisite beauty of the scene before me. The presence of God was palpable and I couldn’t stop praising Him for letting me experience this small glimpse of His overwhelming beauty. That night I had a mountain-top experience in every way.
After that night I fully understood why Peter, James, and John wanted to stay on the mountain after they witnessed Jesus’ transfiguration. Being on the mountain top is a truly glorious way to encounter God. But I also have experienced the beauty and grace found in the valleys. Most of us would rather not have to face those “valley” times where our hearts are broken and we feel overwhelmed by hardship, struggles, and trials. But our wise, loving God knows that we need those valley times to help teach us to appreciate and celebrate the mountain tops. He also knows that the richest, greenest, most nourishing grass grows in the valley and not on the barren rocky mountain tops. The same is true of life. Some of the best opportunities to experience the all-sufficient grace of God are in the valley. It is there that we get to know the intimacy of having no one left but Him – only to find out He is always enough. In the valley we have opportunity to discover the peace that passes all understanding in the midst of turmoil. In the valley our trust is developed and our faith honed so that when we come out on the other side, the image of Christ within us is clearer to see.
Most of us acknowledge that going through the valley is inevitable in life, but what we need to learn is to not give in to our natural desire to run through the valley as fast as we can. We need to learn to put our hand in God’s hand and let Him lead us beside still waters and into green pastures. We need to trust His timing. Instead of running, we need to walk slowly or even sit for a while and let God nourish our souls with His grace as we rest in His presence. We can be assured that He will never leave us, but will bring us through the valley and then lovingly lead us up to the next mountain-top.
Rev. Charles Stanley used this example in one of his sermons: He said that sometimes in life we find ourselves on a mountain-top spiritually and we are comfortable there obediently serving God. However, there is another mountain that is bigger and higher than the one we are on – one where we can experience more of the fullness of God and He wants to take us there. The catch is that to get to the higher mountain, we need to go through the valley. So instead of running from or through our “valley” experiences, let’s embrace the opportunity, receive the grace, learn from God, depend on His presence, and then move on to that higher mountain-top.
Remember these two familiar and precious promises: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5b
Have a blessed week whether you are on a mountain top or in the valley.