The dark valley. (1)
We’ve all been there – and most likely will be again. Perhaps it’s your current dwelling place. We may be in the valley because of the circumstances of life. Things happen, difficult things, that we cannot control. Dark times are a fact of life. Or we may be in the valley because our attitude, our mindset takes and holds us there.
Whichever the case, it’s never fun. And climbing out is hard constant work. Sometimes we feel it’s just simpler to stay there and grin and bear it, thinking “This, too, shall pass.” Yet seldom, if ever, does someone swoop down and pull us out.
But we need not give in to that temptation of simple bearing it. In fact, there is a way of thinking and living that not only lifts us out of the valley but can lessen the number of times we’re in the valley. The prophet Ezekiel paints a stirring picture.
“The passageway of the side chambers widened from story to story; for the structure was supplied with a stairway all around the temple. For this reason the structure became wider from story to story. One ascended from the bottom story to the uppermost story by way of the middle one.” (Ezekiel 41:7 New Revised Standard Version)
There is a way to the uppermost story, to the top floor, to the grand, broader and brighter view. There is an uppermost level that changes everything. Just climb the stairs. Do the hard, constant work of climbing the stairs one at a time. (2)
In other words, do the time – it’s worth the climb.
Charles Spurgeon preached it powerfully. (3)
“We ought not to rest content in the mists of the valley when the summit of Tabor awaits us. How pure are the dews of the hills, how fresh is the mountain air, how rich the fare of the dwellers aloft, whose windows look into the New Jerusalem! Many saints are content to live like men in coal mines, who see not the sun. Tears mar their faces when they might anoint them with celestial oil. Satisfied I am that many a believer pines in a dungeon when he might walk on the palace roof, and view the goodly land and Lebanon…Aspire to a higher, a nobler, a fuller life. Upward to heaven! Nearer to God!”
We climb upward through the constant hard work of filling our minds and hearts with thoughts of the higher broader view. It’s daily, sometimes hourly work. It’s focusing all our sight upward. (4)
You’d think that after 45 years of ministry I’d find it easy. Not! I find it harder than ever. At least when I was preaching every week I studied and soaked in the Word. But without that weekly deadline and pressure, it’s way too easy to become lazy. And I begin to lose that higher broader view. And that impacts everything I do.
So I confess – I am working at it. I know what’s needed. More reading and studying the Word. More times of prayer. More Christian media and music. In other words more time set aside and focused. Easy, right? But that means less TV, less IPad word games, less sports talk radio! Ouch – it hurts to think about it. But I know that if I do the time – it will be worth the climb.
So two points for your thoughts. One – There will be times beyond our control when we’ll be in the valley. Whether or not we stay there will be up to us. Two – Whether or not we slowly lose the higher broader view and slip into the valley at other times is up to us. These words express it more eloquently and pointed than I can.
Not many of us are living at our best. We linger in the lowlands because we are afraid to climb the mountains. The steepness and ruggedness dismay us, and so we stay in the misty valleys and do not learn the mystery of the hills. We do not know what we lose in our self-indulgence, what glory awaits us if only we had courage for the mountain climb, what blessing we should find if only we would move to the uplands of God. (5)
Will you do the time? It’s worth the climb! I’m certain that’s why Jesus spent so much time apart to be in contact with His (and our) Father. If He needed to, surely we do too.
May the words of Jason Oatman, Jr. be your prayer and song (6):
“I want to scale the utmost height,
And catch a gleam of glory bright;
But still I’ll pray, till heaven I’ve found,
Lord, lead me on to higher ground!”
(1) Valley Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash
(2) Stairs Photo by Maxime Lebrun on Unsplash
(3) As quoted in Streams in the Desert, January 2, Mrs. Charles E. Cowman, © 1965 Cowman Publications, Inc.
(4) Eyes Upward Photo from Lightstock
(5) As quoted in Streams in the Desert, January 2, Mrs. Charles E. Cowman, © 1965 Cowman Publications, Inc.
(6) Higher Ground
(7) Higher Ground-Photo by Eric Froehling on Unsplash