By Colonel Genevera Vincent
We often equate positive experiences, feelings of elation, and times of being in a “good space” in our lives as mountain top experiences. Conversely, we have equated the valley experiences with those times of pain, grief, dryness…the opposite of the mountain top experience. I am here to say that the valley seasons in our lives can be some of the most rewarding and spiritually enriching when we sit back, take a breath, and have very honest conversations with God about what he wants us to learn in this time.
If you’ve ever hiked to the top of a mountain, you may find little growth, depending on how wind swept the top of that mountain is. However, in the valley below, there are often wildflowers and luscious green grass that is flourishing. So, I wonder why we speak of the joyful times of our lives as being on the mountain top and the painful experiences like being in the valley? I guess it really depends on our perspective. I think I get it though. Real growth doesn’t usually just happen. If you are a gardener, you will know that to enjoy a beautiful garden there is a lot of weeding and tilling the ground and pruning. I must admit, these are the aspects of gardening I least enjoy. I don’t know about you, but it seems that in my garden, the weeds always grow much faster than the flowers! But the pruning and the weeding are necessary if we want to get to the real beauty. There is a beautiful spiritual lesson tied to gardening, weeding, and pruning.
When I look back over my life at the mountain top and the valley experiences I have had, I can honestly say that the times of deepest growth in my life have been borne out of the difficulties, the hard places. I remember an especially difficult season as an officer. If mountain top experiences are joyful and exuberant, this was not a mountain top experience. We struggled to work through some difficult situations, uncovering some deep-seated problems that resulted in people taking sides and making life and ministry very difficult. I remember feeling very helpless at times and literally crying out to God for help. This was my “valley.” Years later as I look back on that experience, I am grateful for the lessons God taught me in that valley season. Lessons like…doing what’s right and honorable are not always easy; when you stand up for what is right, God will have the final word; before a seed is planted, hard ground must be tilled.
It was this last lesson that I have gone back to many times, these many years hence! In ministry we all talk about planting seeds of faith and watering those seeds with our prayers and our relationship with people. The Bible talks about that after all, in I Corinthians 3:6, Paul says, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.” Before a seed is planted though, it is necessary to disturb the ground, to dig up, if that seed is to germinate and produce growth. As the Scriptures remind us again, a seed thrown on hard ground will be eaten by birds and will not produce anything. We are often okay with planting the seeds and the occasional watering but not everyone enjoys preparing the hard ground before planting. We love the result, the beautiful flowers, but we often want to bypass the hard and difficult task of tilling the ground. The life lesson I learned was very valuable to me. God said to me then, and says to me now, that I’m never in the valley alone. He is there with me-guiding me, teaching me, loving me. We sang a chorus back in my home province of Newfoundland that speaks of the work of God in our lives in the valley. It goes like this,
He leads me beside still waters,
Somewhere in the valley below.
He draws me aside to be tested and tried,
But in the valley, He restoreth my soul.
And that really sums it up. Being tested and tried in the valley doesn’t always feel good, but it is there that God restores us and renews us and causes us to flourish.
So, if you are in a valley season right now, ask yourself, “What is God wanting me to learn during this time? And then, position yourself to listen and learn and flourish as a result!