In the Bible many Valleys were known for only death and destruction…the Valley of the Dry Bones, the Valley of the Shadow of Death, the Valley of Despair. But in this particular Valley it was quite the opposite for the men of Judah. That’s because the vast army that had sought to annihilate them, had instead been annihilated by God. So the Valley of Death and Destruction suddenly became the Valley of Praise. Over the course of the last months many of us have been in the Valley…a Valley filled with fear, anxiety, sadness, isolation, and discouragement. But we need to realize that God is the God of both the mountain-top and the valley…the highs and the lows…the good and the bad. That’s because He’s with us always, so our praise shouldn’t stop either, no matter where we find ourselves. For while we all long for those mountain-top experiences…we also have learned that many a hard-fought lesson comes while in the Valley.
Over the course of my career as a nurse I have witnessed death first hand. I have comforted countless families as they maneuver through the uncharted territory of fear, sorrow, and unspeakable anguish. But I’ve also realized that it doesn’t get any easier with a lot of experience. Death of a loved one is a heart crushing encounter full of very personal suffering. And a few weeks ago, I still found myself asking, “Why Lord?”, when a young wife and mother was taken from her two small boys and husband on Christmas Eve. But it’s then, I must remind myself that just because my prayers weren’t answered like I wanted, doesn’t mean that God somehow made a mistake.
King Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah were desperate. Enemy armies were fast approaching and they didn’t know what to do. They found themselves in a dark valley of desperation, discouragement, and fear with no way out…but they resolved to trust God. And it’s in that same valley that God worked a mighty miracle…giving them victory over their enemies. That valley of their suffering was changed into the Valley of Beracah…the Valley of Praise. With God’s help, we can grow during those hard times. Our faith can increase and be strengthened in the midst of turmoil, loss, and strife…if we trust God. It’s then that our valley of the shadow of death can also become a Valley of Praise.
What has a greater hold on your life and takes up a bigger space in your heart, fear or faith? When you find yourself in a deep, dark place, do you seek solace and consolation in the Lord…or do you allow fear and doubt to reign instead? By placing our trust in God and facing down our fears, He will lead us safety through the valley, no matter how dark or threatening it may appear. Our Christian walk is a long series of trust-building exercises that strengthen our faith, and reinforce our confidence in God. So that when we find ourselves in that valley and hear God say, “Fear not!” … we’ll remember what He’s done, and place our trust in Him because of it . Our faith is built up one dilemma at a time…one dark valley at a time. And each time we choose faith over fear…fear loses some of its grip on us.
In those times of darkness… when unhappiness and turmoil have you crouched down in the valley of despair…God will speak truths softly to you. Precious truths that will encourage, exhort, and sustain you during that critical time…but it doesn’t stop there. God wants you to share with others these precious truths when the light of day finally shines again in your life. For after you have passed through the valley of the shadow of death, the truths God whispered to you then, become the lifelines for others who still remain in darkness.
When distress, grief, or affliction are crushing down, you long for someone to tell you that they’ve not only been where you are, but about the journey back to wholeness. The Lord encourages us during those dark times, so we in turn can impart that same compassion and mercy to others. The time spent in the valley of the shadow of death is difficult to be sure, but when we’ve made it out, we can reach back to help others with the same encouragement the Lord has given us.