He takes no pleasure in the strength of a horse or in human might. No, the Lord’s delight is in those who fear Him, those who put their hope in His unfailing love.Psalm 147:10-11
When a crisis hits our lives, our first inclination is to do whatever it takes to fix it. We push into what we know, what we understand, our resources, our connections, our willpower and determination, and anything else that gives us some sense of control.
The nature of a crisis, though, is that it is not within our control. We can’t control a crisis anymore than we can control a tornado.
Whether it is a health diagnosis, financial ruin, the loss of a child, a betrayal in a marriage, a horrific accident, etc., it is our lack of control that makes it a crisis.
Our lives can instantly take a turn that hurls us tumbling headlong down the side of the mountain until we land with a hard thud in the low, low place, a deep valley, battered and bloodied and panicked.
And, we will want to fight. We will want to pull ourselves up and claw our way back up the sheer, rocky walls surrounding us. We will want to do whatever it takes to get out of the valley, but, the valley is not the place from which we fight.
The valley is a place of rest.
“Wait!” you may say, “I can’t rest. My life just imploded.”
Herein lies the confusion. We think rest is giving up and giving in. We don’t understand that rest is work…just a different kind of work. When we rest, we do the work of turning from our human might to the fear of the Lord and from our false hopes to God’s unfailing love.
What exactly is the fear of the Lord? It is a reverence and awe that leads to surrender, obedience, and worship. When we have a fear of the Lord, we recognize who God is and who we are in comparison.
One of the most well-known stories in the Bible is the story of a man thrown from the mountain top down into the valley. The story of Job.
We literally watch him tumbling as servant after servant delivers gut-wrenching news of crisis.
“All your animals are gone and your farmhands killed.”
“All your sheep and shepherds are burned up.”
“All your camels are stolen and servants murdered.”
“All your children are dead.”
Even Job’s health is lost.
When Job finally challenges God, God gives the least expected answer. He doesn’t tell Job why crisis and suffering has come into his life. He doesn’t give Job an explanation or a ten-step program to restore his good fortune. God’s answer is to declare to Job who He is…His character, His power, and His sovereignty.
Job’s reply to the Lord is the response every valley ultimately demands of us…
Then Job replied to the Lord: “I know that you can do anything, and no one can stop you.”Job 42:1-2
In Job’s reply, we hear a fear of the Lord. His reply is one of reverence and awe and submission.
Job goes on to say, “I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes,” Job 42:5.
The valley is where our faith is tested and where God is proved. It is where what we have heard of God and known in our heads to be true of Him, we now can see with our own eyes and know to be true in our hearts. We rest in the truth that God is God and we are not.
The valley is a place of trust.
But, Psalm 147 doesn’t just say God is pleased when we fear Him, but when we hope in His unfailing love. Yes, God is worthy of our reverence, awe, obedience, and worship simply because He is God, and the valley reminds us of this truth…He can do anything, and no one can stop Him.
But, the anything God does always flows from His character, and He is good and just. His love for us is unfailing, steadfast, and faithful (Psalm 33:5).
Most of us won’t face the extent of loss Job did, but we will likely face more than one valley in our lifetimes and some of them may be deep and dark, but God’s children never face a valley alone. Our Good Shepherd is there. His rod protects us and disciplines us and His staff keeps us close, and together His rod and staff comfort us. We will not be lost from our Shepherd or destroyed by our enemies (Psalm 23).
This does not mean we don’t take the medicine or try for the job that will restore financial stability or seek marriage counseling, etc.; it means that we recognize that these things in and of themselves are not what we worship or hope in. We cannot trust our human efforts. They often fail. Our God does not.
As long as we are trusting in human might, the valley will be a place of panic, exhaustion, hopelessness, and fear. As a matter of fact, what we initially turn to for hope in the low place reveals what we think can carry our hope. In the valley, our idols fall and our misplaced hopes are exposed, and we are reoriented to place all our trust in the steadfast love, goodness, and justice of our great God.
The valley is a place of repentance.
I take back everything I said before, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.Job 42:6
Job ends his reply to God’s confrontation with repentance. No one walks a valley without being confronted with a need to repent.
It is in the low, low place that our hearts are exposed. When life is going our way, we may be able to hide who we really are from others, we may even be able to deceive ourselves, but God knows us intimately…even our thoughts and the motivations behind our actions and behaviors. He loves us too much to leave us on paths of destruction or in bondage to sinful patters and thinking.
When our lives fall apart, God is at work in the shattering as the Refiner’s fire, melting away that which is of the flesh that we may be purified in all our ways becoming like His Son, Jesus. (Malachi 2:17-3:6; Romans 8:29)
The valley is not a place of destruction for God’s children, but a place where God works for our holiness. Our sanctification cannot be separated from God’s conviction and discipline and our repentance.
The valley is a place of surrender.
We cannot fight our way out of the valley with our human might. God isn’t pleased or impressed by the strongest, smartest, or most resourceful human beings. God is pleased with holy fear and faith.
The valley is where we surrender our strivings and let God work…in us…in them…in our situation. And we trust.
We trust the character of our God. We trust His goodness and His timing. We trust that what He allows and what He withholds ultimately has our good and His glory in mind (Romans 8:28).
There are times in this life where we will face our worst fears. In those valleys, we look to our risen Savior knowing one day the most broken and painful parts of our stories will be overcome in the glory of God’s promises, which are always and forever Yes in Christ, and in the fullness of joy in His presence (John 16:33; 2 Corinthians 1:19-21; Psalm 16:11).
God’s goodness and unfailing love pursue His children all the days of their lives…and that includes every day spent in the valley (Psalm 23:6). It is His goodness and unfailing love to which we surrender ourselves in holy fear.