I’ve spent my entire life living in an area surrounded by the Appalachian Mountains. These mountains can be extremely steep and rugged, depending on where you are located in the range. The mountaintops offer some magnificent views, while the valleys can often be cold and dreary. Having spent hours upon hours in these woods either hunting, hiking, or fishing, mountaintop experiences are rare. Generally speaking, more time is spent in the valley. Valleys can be steep and narrow or broad and wide, depending largely on the stream that cut them. However, in the steep valleys, those which are often cool, damp, and dreary, there is an eager expectation of sunlight. I’ve spent many mornings sitting in these valleys shivering, when the first rays of sunshine begin to tickle the tree tops in the valley creating an anticipation of the warmth of the sun lighting on the skin.
The follower of Christ knows all too well of the mountaintop and valley experiences in their life. As in traversing topography, mountaintop experiences in the Christian life are also rare and when they do come seem brief as compared to the valley that had to be crossed and climbed in order to get there. In general, the valley experience of Christians is not one that is embraced. After all, who likes suffering, affliction, sorrow, or a myriad of other “valley experiences” that impact the life of believers? Yet it is in these valleys that the anticipation of Son-light should warm us. It is in the lowest, darkest of places that the Son shines brightest and creates the most warmth. Would we notice the warmth of a single ray of sunshine while standing on the mountain fully exposed to the entirety of sunlight? Hardly, yet in the darkness a single sun’s ray is enough to offer hope.
It is in the valley where Ezekiel sees the vision of God’s glory (Ezekiel 3:23). It is in the valley that God declares “Live!” to the dry bones (Ezekiel 37:2). It is in the valley that David declares the Lord walks with him (Psalm 23:4). It is in the valley where the wars of Israel took place, yet God triumphed over their foes (see Joshua, Ezekiel 39, Revelation 19; 20:9). It is in the valley where Joshua slept before the defeat of AI (Joshua 8:13). It was on the mountain that our Lord was transfigured, but the gateway to glory went through the Valley of Humiliation. It is in the valley where the Lord causes His servants to rely on Him and anticipate the warmth of the Son’s rays. He is the God of the Valley as well as the Mountain (1 Kings 20:28).
I’m reminded of a small Norwegian town that is without the sun’s rays 6 months out of the year. In order to combat this problem, they erected a series of mirrors on the mountaintop to project the sun’s rays into the valley. In much the same way Christ descended into the valley and ascended upon the mountain now to reflect the rays of God’s glory upon His saints who travail in the valleys. Oh that we would not be so quick to escape the throws of the valley, but let God have His perfect work in us as He molds us more into the image of His Son. Know then that when the valley approaches on the Christian journey the Son shines brightest there. Anticipate the warmth that He provides as He leads you through the valley and look forward with blessed hope to that day when Christ will fill every valley for eternity.
The Shepherd Boy’s Song in the Valley of Humiliation
He that is down needs fear no fall,
He that is low no pride;
He that is humble ever shall
Have God to be his guide.
I am content with what I have, 5
Little be it or much;
And, Lord, contentment still I crave
Because thou savest such.
Fulness to such a burden is
That go on to pilgrimage; 10
Here little and hereafter bliss
Is best from age to age.
– From John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress: Part II