For all posts thus far in the Pilgrimage Tour series, click here.
What do you think about when you think of a valley?
Most likely, you think about a dark place. A place of sorrow. A place of mourning, depression, and despair. I know I do.
The goal is the mountaintop, right? To get past the misery and desolation, finally receiving the joy and victory that comes on the top of the mountain.
All of those clichés seemed really nice—until I began to climb a mountain.
On Day 4 of the Pilgrimage Tour, we finally got to the part where we hiked. So far, we had just been traveling hours upon hours in two 15-passenger vans. But now, we were in for the real stuff.
We were at Zion National Park in Utah, hiking to the top of mountain to a place named “Angel’s Landing”. I knew that I wasn’t a hiker and gladly joined the “slow group”, who went at a comfortable pace and stopped about every five minutes to rest.
I’ll be honest, the hike was hell for me.
I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to do it. I immediately questioned whether I should have even began the trek in the first place. So many doubts and second-guessing filled my head.
But, I managed to do it. Even though it was harder than I ever thought it’d be.
After my group hiked back down, we saw a river in the middle of the valley at the bottom. Some other people from our group were already down there, wading in the water and laying out on the shore. My group decided to join them.
It was incredibly refreshing and beautiful. The sound of the stream, the shade from the mountains, the ability to just lay there and do nothing. I laid down on the shore, put my hat over my head, and took a nice little nap. It was amazing.
As I was soaking up my time in this valley, I began to think: “Why do valleys get such a bad rap?” It was looking pretty great to me. Rest. Shade. Refreshment. I was loving it. This was a lot better than that crazy hike I had just done. As cool as the hike was, I would have much rather stayed here all day long.
But, then I thought, is this perhaps the peril of the valley?
Maybe the valley isn’t about despair at all. Maybe it has nothing to do with sadness.
Perhaps the danger of “the valley” isn’t that it’s full of sorrow, but that it’s full of contentment.
It’s easy to soak in the relaxation of the valley. Being in the shade and resting by the brook is nice. That’s not the hard part.
What’s hard is actually taking the effort to climb up the mountain. To be brave enough to take a risk and leave the valley, taking the journey up a treacherous, arduous path.
The worst things in life are the things that don’t seem like a bad thing. This is what 2 Corinthians 11:14 says about Satan. He doesn’t come at you in a way that you could recognize as evil; he disguises himself as an angel of light.
When we think about Satan, we think about a scary looking creature with horns and pitchfork. When we think about valleys, we think about ominous landscapes and menacing pathways. But evil doesn’t always look the way we expect it to look.
As I laid down in the valley, I realized that more people are caught in spiritual valleys than most of us realize.
Everyone wants to be on the mountaintop, but no one wants to climb the mountain.
We are all fine soaking up in the comfort of the valley.
But the climb is where God forms his people. The hike is where we’re made into the type of people that God wants to be. Because, the journey up the mountain is where we’re disciplined. The valley is what holds us back from being who God has called us to be.
The scariest part? We probably won’t even make it to the mountaintop on this side of Jesus’ appearance. But that’s not the goal. If getting to the top was the goal, then we all might as well just stay in the valley. The goal, however, is becoming people who are willing to get out of the valley and make the climb up the mountain.
That’s what God wants to do with us.
The valley of the shadow of the death may be death to us simply because life is found as we trek up the mountain.
That day in Zion National Park, I reimagined what it means to be stuck in the valley. It made me become more keen to areas in life that may appear to be good and fine, but in reality might be the death of me.
I may not be able to make it to the top of the mountain, but I can start by not settling for the valley. Because Jesus is the One scaling the mountain with us.
The valley may have a river full of water, but we’re hiking with the Living Water. We may be able to take a nap in the valley, but Jesus gives us true rest. There may be trees with shade, but we trek toward the tree of life.
Let us do so with boldness and confidence. Amen.