There’s something about being in a valley. Everything else is uphill. Valleys have the tendency to keep drawing you downward too. No matter that a valley floor leads to a valley side, which does actually lead to a mountaintop. The valley is like quicksand. Lofty heights are obliterated by dense green forest. Azure blue sky is textured with needle studded silhouettes. The trail is dark. The eyes strain to see it. Shadows come quickly and leave slowly. Every cracking branch is magnified into some great big hungry creature, seeking whomsoever it may devour.
• • • • • • •
He had been to the top. He had seen that the mountains belonged to God, but this was something else. Mile after mile he ran. Just to get somewhere, anywhere, perhaps nowhere. Nowhere where his enemies would follow.
So he runs down to the valley of discouragement. Hungry, exhausted, afraid. He presses on, but this leads him only to a deeper basin: self-pity.
Having seen the glory of God displayed in such magnificent grandeur upon Mt. Carmel, Elijah should have known that God had not left His throne. But the lesson is for us.
We all have days after a mountaintop. The trail continues beyond each peak, but while we have the option of plunging to the lowest low, we don’t have to do that. There is a higher plain. A plain found through faith, prayer, and work.
Remember that there was a valley before victory at Ai. That place of earlier defeat and discouragement was still to be conquered, and of all things, Israel had to march through a valley to get there. Talk about daunting. Notice however, that victory is not gained by evading all valleys. As the Psalmist said, Yea, though I walk through the valley…
…I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me…
Elijah was not loved less of heaven when he felt brokenhearted and rejected by men and God, then when God sent fire from above in answer to his very own prayer on Mt. Carmel. The mountains belong to God, but so do the valleys.
Perhaps you find yourself in a valley today. Maybe it plunges beneath the valley of victory. Perhaps it’s a valley of discouragement or defeat. Or perhaps it’s a valley of test and trial.
Take heart. You are not loved less. With Christ, a valley is a place of victory, and a place of peace. If God led you here, His dream is that you conquer Ai. If, like Elijah, your pit is despair, God’s longing is that you leave it in the arms of faith. The victory is in getting up, and going back to work. We can’t conquer Ai, or climb out of self-pity with finite arms. We need help. We need a great.. strong.. mighty.. God..
…a God who rules the valleys too.