Back in England this week, I shared an evening with friends. At one point we took their dogs for a short walk in a section of the beautiful hills of The South Downs. You might remember I’ve shared stories of one of the dogs, Katie the schnauzer, who I keep when her owner is away. Katie was happily coming along, although limping with the arthritis she bears.
At one point, one of my friends turned to look back at Katie and I heard her say, “Why are you struggling up the mountain when it’s easier to come along in the valley.” I looked back, and sure enough, their was Katie showing great determination to walk up the incline rather than down to the flatter area.
We humans do the same thing in our spiritual walk, don’t we. We long to be in the mountain tops where we tell ourselves, the heights of mountain top experiences are full of joy and gladness. We tend to fear and dread the valley experiences. It’s almost as if we forget that God is just as much in the valley as He is on the mountain top.
Have you ever read the book by Hannah Hurnard, “Hinds Feet On High Places?” The main character, Much-Afraid, longs to be with the Shepherd in the high places of the mountain but He first leads her to the valley and along difficult paths. Sometimes she is cut and bruised on the sharp rocks and she tires greatly when the climb is steep. Even so, it’s in the valley where she experiences the sweetness of the Shepherd’s care for her when she’s hurting. It’s in the valley where she learns His vast wisdom in how He plans her paths for her own good. It’s in the valley where she discovers something of herself that she never thought possible: she has become strong in all the areas of her life where she knew she had always been weak.
It’s time spent in the difficult places of our life’s journey that allows us to enjoy the views from the mountain top that would never be possible without first traveling in the valley.
“The Lord is my Shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; He leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to His name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23