Part 3 of 3| Through the Valley Series
Chances are, you are quite familiar with a passage, in the Bible, that mentions a valley. Or, you may be scratching your head right now trying to think of the verse… or any verse! If that’s the case, let me help you and I’m sure you will know it right away. It’s Psalm 23:3 (NASB):
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”
There is so much about this Psalm, describing the care and love God has for us, that I could write a blog for each verse! Yet I digress. What struck me about this verse in regards to the valley, is how David – the author of this Psalm – reveals to us a key characteristic when we feel lost, spiritually dry, hopeless, and weary… a few of the many descriptors we feel when we in the valley. That essential quality is this: God does not leave you in the valley. Whether you are in the valley because of your own doing or you have no idea while you are there, He is there with you NOW and will not leave you there. This is so important, we could easily miss this!
David realized something special here – it is not God’s will to leave us stuck, isolated, and depressed in the valley. No way! Otherwise, wouldn’t Psalm 23:4 be read much differently? We would read instead… “Even though I dwell through the valley…” or “sit” or even “take residence”; but that is not the case, thank the Lord! The valley is temporary and seasonal – you will get through what you are facing now. Although the waiting may seem eternal, the pain feels burdensome, and the future seems bleak, take heart! Jesus is with you, is guiding you, and will get you to where He wants you to go! Ultimately, that is to know His presence in a greater way than ever before.
We’ve been trekking with Elijah the last few weeks to gain a proper understanding of traversing through the valley. Part 1 (see link) helped us understand that it’s not ‘if’ we wait, but ‘how’ we wait – drawing near to God in times of stress, strain, and worry to where we can worship Him instead. Part 2 (see link) revealed to our heart response in the valley – how are we reacting? Additionally, we are learning how to respond well in the valley since God cares not only about our destination to the mountaintop (His presence and the victory He gives us to overcome) but also the journey itself (the formation process).
Let’s see what happens next with Elijah:
All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.
The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. 9 There he went into a cave and spent the night.” – 1 Kings 19:5b-9
The Lord met Elijah where he was at… twice in the same valley. Realizing that the Lord was indeed with him, he then had the strength to go up to the mountain of God. In other words, God’s provision spurred Elijah to seek His presence.
What an interesting thought. We see this happen frequently when negative situations happen to us. In one of my previous post ‘Jesus Will Get You To The Other Side’ (‘https://nathancherney.com/jesus-will-get-you-to-the-other-side/), I briefly described how in 2008, I came back from Australia nearly convinced that I was going to be a missionary for 2 years working with the youth – this meant no seminary! (At least at that time!) A few months went by and then everything seemed to be falling apart. “What happened to my seemingly “God-ordained” plans Lord?!?” The part I wanted to expand on through this post is that this unforeseen situation led me to partake in my first serious fast to seek the Lord’s will and direction for my life.
It was late in the fast that I had the revelation that, “My wife was coming soon.” Five months later, in the most arbitrary and least likely places you would ever consider, I met Valerie. Or as I found out… ‘re-met’ Valerie, since she remembered me from 2 ½ years earlier on campus at UCR (It’s an INCREDIBLE story of God’s faithfulness, goodness, and promise fulfilled… maybe my next book!).
The Lord did not have me meet Valerie when I was in that particular valley. He gave me vision and endurance (provision) I needed to seek Him more (presence). That valley taught me that, “His ways are higher than my ways and His thoughts are greater than my thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). Since God has the aerial view, He can see the big picture when I can only see the seemingly never-ending valley in front of me. He knew that if I went to Australia, I would not have met Valerie and we would not be married to this day. God is so good!
That is why if you are in the valley, do not give up. Continue to ask the Holy Spirit for guidance and wisdom. Look around for His provision for He wants you to pass through your valley. Whether you feel it’s a test or a trial, God has the end in mind for you. His provision will be enough to sustain you through the valley as you wholly seek His face.
Here’s another amazing revelation – Elijah didn’t go back to the Mount Carmel, where he had his recent victory. Instead, he spent 40 days and 40 nights walking south, down to Mount Horeb, otherwise known as Mount Sinai. Why?
I believe that, although God met Elijah there with such an impressive victory, it was part of the provision of God – the fire on the altar. Elijah wanted and definitely needed instead, the presence of God. He knew that Moses, another prophet of God from the days of old, met God on that mountain… it was known as ‘the mountain of God.’ What better place to be than in the Lord’s presence when we are discouraged, depressed, and want to die?
In the valley, we may need to look at God’s faithfulness in the past if we want to move forward. To remember the days of old when He met us… He will meet us again. He is beckoning us to go higher where He has called us to and to ascend up to where He wants to meet us.
Looking back can give you the sustenance to get through the valley and hopefully, get through it quickly! Here are some ways that I use to recall the ways in which God has met me, in the past, for future encouragement. Hopefully, they can help you as well:
- Go through your journal and look at past answered prayers and dreams
- Certain songs that bring your focus back to God – (For me, it’s songs by Jason Upton)
- Seek out others who can speak life into you and remind you of who you are in Christ
- Reminisce on your life verse or Scriptures that you hold dear
- Reassigning priorities to put God first in our lives
Elijah was strengthened in the valley in order to ascend up the mountain; God’s provision was enough to give Elijah the strength to seek more of the Lord’s presence. As you read the rest of chapter 19, you will see that the Elijah does meet the Lord on the mountain – this mountaintop experience of the Lord’s presence is where Elijah hears His voice and is commissioned to fulfill the rest of his ministry and calling.
His presence is the best thing you could ever seek! While the Holy Spirit is indwelling inside you and will never leave you, it’s another thing to seek the Lord for more of who He is – to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30). David agrees as he said, “My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, LORD, I will seek. (Psalm 27:8). And again, he says, “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere” (Psalm 84:10).
My prayer for you is that you not only learn how to walk through the valley but that you live out these principles I’ve discussed in the last 3 blogs. I want to remind you that God has something greater for you on the other side of the valley. The valley will end and the Lord will draw you closer to Him, to ascent higher in the journey to where He is.
May you turn to God for what you need so you will be strengthened and encouraged to have more of Him.
 A verse that encourages you to live out who you were meant to be!