For some reason, I have never enjoyed geography. Perhaps I didn’t study hard enough in school. But as I study my Bible, I find myself becoming greatly interested in God’s geography, particularly something that God said about the Promised Land He was giving to His people, Israel. “But the land you are going over to possess is a land of hills and valleys” (Deut. 11:11). I can’t think of a better description of the Christian life–a land of hills and valleys.
Christians today have a great deal in common with th e nation of Israel back in Moses’ day, even though there are some radical differences. For example, there was a time when the people were in bondage; and God set them free. Once you and I were in bondage to sin; but God has set us free. God set Israel free by the blood of the lamb; adn God has set us free by the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Lamb without spot or blemish. God let the nation with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night; and God leads us today through His Holy Word. God brought His people to the border of their inheritance and told them to go in and possess the land by faith; but unfortunately, the fell into unbelief and failed to possess the land.
The Lord has given Christians today a wonderful spiritual inheritance in Christ, and all we have to do is possess it by faith. The Bible is the divine road map that describes our inheritance for us; and God says that our inheritance is “a land of hills and valleys.”
Now, this fact may come as a surprise to some of you. Many people have the idea that the Christian life is an easy life–that once you are saved, your troubles are over. Well, once you are saved, many problems are solved; but many new problems appear. Jesus never promised that it would be easy for us to claim our inheritance. “In the world you will have tribulation,” He warned His disciples. “If they have hated me, they will hate you.” The Christian life is a land of hills and valleys.
Let’s begin with the valleys. Have you ever noticed that most of the great people in the Bible went through valley experiences? In Genesis 15 I find Abraham going through “the horror of a great darkness.” I find Issac trembly because one of his sons has tricked him. I see JAcob wrestling all night until he is willing to surrender to God. I hear Moses crying out to God, “I am not able to bear all this people alone…kill me, I pray thee.” I see David hiding in a cave and wondering if the crown would ever be on his head. I hear the prophet Isaiah lamenting, “I have labored in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing and in vain!” (Isa. 49:4). I watch John the Baptist in prison as he sends his disciples to Jesus to ask, “Are you the Messiah, or should we look for another?” Yes, I even hear the great apostle Paul saying, “For we would not have you ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life.” These men knew what it was to go through the valley.
Why does God permit the valleys to come to our lives? For one thing, we learn some lessons in the valleys that we could never learn on the mountaintop. Do you think that David could have written those wonderful psalms if he had never known the trials in the valley? How could he have written, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me,” if he had never gone through the valley himself? Suppose Jeremiah had never gone through that terrible valley that made him the “Weeping Prophet”? Could he ever have written, “His compassions fail not; they are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22,23)? Suppose Paul had never gone through the valley with his thorn in the flesh? Could he have written, “My grace is sufficient for thee”? When we go through the valley, we learn lessons we could never learn any other way.
And, we grow in character in a way that we could never grow apart from the valley. Great Christians are made by great trials. A man does not become patient simply by reading a book or praying a prayer. He becomes patient by going through the valley. We don’t learn how to pray by sitting in an easy chair. We learn how to pray by going through the valley. Faith is cultivated in the darkness of the valley. God may teach us in the light, but He tests us in the darkness. This is why Paul wrote: “But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead.” The Christian graces are developed as we walk with Christ through the valley.
But God has another purpose for the valley: as we go through the valley, we learn how to help others. Psalm 84:6 puts it this way: “Who passing through the valley of weeping makes it a place of springs.” Here is a pilgrim going through a difficult valley, so difficult he is even weeping; but he leaves behind a well to refresh the pilgrims that will follow him. Perhaps the reason you are in the valley today is that God may comfort you so you in turn may comfort someone else. He wants you to leave a well behind. Paul had this in mind when he wrote, “God comforts us in all our tribulation that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God” (II Cor. 1:4).
The Christian life is a land of hills and valleys. God ordains the valleys that He might teach us lessons we could never learn any other way. He leads us through the valleys so that we may grow in our Christian character, and so that we may help others when they go through the valley. But there’s a fourth reason He permits the valleys, and it’s this: you cannot have hills unless you have valleys.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if life were just a series of mountaintop experiences? Wouldn’t we be happier if there were no valleys in our lives? The Christian life is a land of hills and valleys, but we must never forget that you cannot have hills unless you have valleys.
God knows how to balance our lives. All sunshine makes a desert, says the old proverb; adn all hills, without valleys, will make an immature and shallow life. If you and I want to enjoy the hilltops of happiness, we must be willing to experience the valleys of trial. It’s comforting and encouraging to know that at the end of every valley there is a hill, and atop that hill is a new experience of blessing from the Lord.
I can’t help but notice that the lives of God’s people in the Bible were made up of both hills and valleys. Abraham received a great promise from God one day, and the next day the land was plunged into drought and famine. Isaac was born, and Abraham’s joy was complete. A few years later, God told him to offer his beloved son on the altar. The great prophet Moses experienced the hills and valleys. No sooner had he led the nation out of Egypt when they began to complain and ask to go back into bondage! Moses met God on the mountaintop and saw His glory; then he came down and discovered Israel dancing before a golden idol. Hills and valleys!
It was true even in the early life of our Lord. When Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River, the Father spoke from heaven and the Spirit came down on Jesus like a dove. What a mountaintop experience! But then the Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. What a valley to go through! See Him as He enters Gethsemane, as He prays and sweats great drops of blood. See Him hanging on a cross! What a vallye He endured! But then, see Him risen from the dead–radiant in the glorified body! What a mountaintop experience! Then He ascends to the highest heaven and sits at the right hand of God!
This is God’s word of encouragement to you as you go through the valley. The Christian life is aland of hills and valleys; and wherever you find a valley, you will always find a mountaintop at the other end. This is true because our Lord Jesus Christ has already gone before us to prepare the way. Every valley that we go through, Christ has already traveled before us.
I’m glad the Christian life is a land of hills and valleys. There is nothing monotonous about it. Every day presents a new challenge to grow in grace, a new opportunity to help others, a new privilege to receive grace and strength from Jesus Christ. It is a land of hills and valleys, and our God is a God of the hills and a God of the valleys.
Copyright, Warren W. Wiersbe
This material originally appeared in Songs in the Night.
Not to be reproduced or copied without permission of 2ProphetU.
Dr. Warren Wiersbe (1929-2019) was an internationally known Bible teacher, author, and conference speaker. He graduated in 1953 from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, Illinois. While attending seminary, he was ordained as pastor of Central Baptist Church in 1951 and served until 1957. From September 1957 to 1961, Wiersbe served as Director of The Literature Division for Youth for Christ International. From 1961 to 1971 he pastored Calvary Baptist Church of Covington, Kentucky south of Cincinnati, Ohio. His sermons were broadcast as the “Calvary Hour” on a local Cincinnati radio station. From 1971 to 1978, He served as the pastor of Moody Church in Chicago 1971 to 1978. While at Moody Church he continued in radio ministry. Between August 1979 and March 1982, he wrote bi-weekly for Christianity Today as “Eutychus X”, taught practical theology classes at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and wrote the course material and taught a Doctor of Ministry course at Trinity and Dallas Seminary. In 1980 he transitioned to Back to the Bible radio broadcasting network where he worked until 1990. Dr. Wiersbe became Writer in Residence at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids and Distinguished Professor of Preaching at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. In his lifetime, Dr. Wiersbe wrote over 170 books—including the popular Be series, which has sold over four million copies. Dr. Wiersbe was awarded the Gold Medallion Lifetime Achievement by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA).