Have you ever heard the term, “The rhythm of life”? It is a phrase that sums up life on this side of the grave since Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden. The Bible puts it this way:
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)
Prior to “the fall”, the cadence of creation did not include all that we find in the valleys of this life. Life was perfect and lived in paradise. And one day, when Jesus returns, He will make all things new, and the valleys of a creation that groans, waiting to be set free from its bondage to decay (Romans 8:20-23), will be eliminated forever. In that day, all who have placed their trust in Christ will enjoy an eternal “mountaintop experience”–rejoicing in living in the presence and the glory of our Redeemer.
But until that blessed day arrives, we will all plod through numerous valleys on the journey to the Celestial City. The peaks of peace and planting, love and laughter, dancing and embracing are always welcome. Quite naturally, we prefer the peaks to the valleys. But in a creation that has been subjected to futility because of the willful, flagrant rebellion of our ancestors, valleys are inevitable. Indeed, those valleys have been ordained! So the question we must continually ask and answer is: “How well do I deal with the valleys of life?” What kind of God do those around you see when you’re in the valley? Do they see a God of grace? A God of humility and worship?
Job, after experiencing catastrophe that was more difficult to endure than his own death, fell on the ground and worshipped the Sovereign Lord of all.”The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away,” Job rightly acknowledged; “blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21). Is that what others see in you during your valley experience? Or . . . is it something much less?
We sin our way into some of life’s valleys. The cosmic rebellion of Adam and Eve plunged all of creation into darkness and decay. Our parents were designed for peak living only. However, when they believed Satan’s lie that they were missing out on something better, times of trial and trouble entered into the seasons of life. We can all recall those valleys that we willfully entered, and the accompanying pain and sorrow that left vivid impressions on the canvas of our lives.
There are other valleys that are the hard providences delivered by a good and gracious God. These trials are designed to bring us to the end of ourselves and grow us up in our faith. God ordains these valleys for our good and His glory. God knows that continually living on the mountaintops would only encourage our natural desire for autonomy and self sufficiency. Mountaintops can seduce us into removing the Master from the throne of our lives and believing that our satisfaction, meaning, and purpose is located in a place, rather than in the person of Christ.
God leads us into valleys, not because He is unable to protect us from them, but because He knows we need to walk in them! God knows that mountaintop joy is fleeting, and He wants to give us real, lasting joy. Mountaintops were never designed to provide us with that which only the Master can ultimately give. And because this is true, God will inevitably intervene whenever we seek to construct our own personal Towers of Babel, which we would regard as monuments to our personal excellence and worth.
Do you recall Nebuchadnezzar’s great fall? He looked out from the roof of his royal palace and his heart was moved to worship . . . himself! “Is not this great Babylon,” he exulted, “which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” WHAM! “While the words were still in the king’s mouth,” the Lord announced that Nebuchadnezzar would be munching on grass like a cow! Was God simply “getting even” with Nebuchadnezzar for his self-glorification? No, this humiliation would last for a season of time, until the king knew “that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.” And when Nebuchadnezzar raised his eyes to heaven and gave glory to God, both his sanity and his kingdom were restored to him. You can read all about it in the fourth chapter of Daniel.
Valleys are not delivered by a vengeful God. They are delivered by a loving, merciful God who knows that we are prone to continue to believe the lie of the Garden–that we can find fulfillment apart from our relationship with Him. We need to be rescued from our mountaintops by any and all means necessary, so God sends us down into valleys.
One final thought: regardless of the valley you may be experiencing, you do not walk it alone. God is with you every step of the way. “Where shall I go from your Spirit?” David cried. “Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!” (Psalm 139:7-8). That, beloved, is the ultimate mountaintop experience for anyone!
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!
Rev. Tommy Boland is the men’s minister and sports minister at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church. He also teaches adult Sunday school. For more information, including Bible study resource materials, please e-mail [email protected] or visit www.tommyboland.com.