(Today's post by Tim David)
1 Samuel 23 & 24
Valley experiences are bad enough. You know those times when everything you attempt turns to complete unusable garbage…maybe it’s your career, health, family, or God’s deafening silence – or maybe it’s all of these at the same time. Recently, my family has been through probably the darkest valley I hope to ever experience. To make matters worse, it felt like this valley started going uphill without any signs of relief. It is so easy at this point to wander, trying to find an easier path. Then there’s a turning point when you look forward and not seeing the end, you turn around and can’t see where you came from. This moment is when you cry out to God and don’t hear the audible reassuring voice…there’s nothing just the wind. It gently wisps through the narrow opening that has engulfed you, whispering through the crevices in the stone’s face. As you forget who you are and simply focus on the wind, you hear what your heart needs in order to take the next step forward and then another and another. The feelings of despair, fear, and loneliness melt into determination, drive, and renewed dedication. You aren’t consciously moving, your body takes over where your exhaustion ends until you emerge, victorious – knowing you were pushed to the limit and lived to talk about it.
I can’t even imagine what David must have felt. Here he is a “king to be,” hunted by his best friend’s father. Nothing he does is ever repaid with a simple “Thank You,” instead everyone turns on him. He had every right to take Saul off the face of the earth. There should have been nothing holding him back. His men probably lost respect for him because he didn’t kill Saul. These idiots in Keilah sell him out after he gives them their town back. David finally finds refuge in En-Gedi…a craggy group of rock formations that also provided an oasis by the Dead Sea. David would never have been the man he was without being in En-Gedi. David was tested, down to the last fiber of his being…and he emerged with God’s blessing so evident that even Saul had to finally acknowledge it. David didn’t pass the test on his own, he felt convicted for even taking a piece of Saul’s robe! When was David to be vindicated, how long was he to go on with Saul relentlessly pursuing his death?…it didn’t matter, God was with him. David will later write, “Though I walk though the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me… “ David would never have arrived at this level of faith without this experience. God didn’t prevent David from going through En-Gedi, and He used it to build David’s character, faith, and reputation.
Valleys are awful! There’s no cleaner way to say it. I hate them…but you can’t have mountain-tops without valleys. Knowing that there’s a mountain top somewhere and someone is standing on it, doesn’t make the valley experience any easier; but it sure does make it sweeter when you take that last step onto the Summit! There is an emotion that can’t be spoken – it’s only felt at that moment. It is comes from the body, mind, and soul being one in acknowledging our dependence on someone so much larger than we can imagine. Looking back…the valley doesn’t look nearly as formidable from up above. Christ lives on the mountain top…he created it- thus creating the valley. My take away is this, having gone through the valley…am I stronger as a result of having gone through it? – Meaning, I can’t live on the mountain top (I’m stuck down here on earth, for now), thusly I’m going to go through another valley. Will I struggle in that valley? I can now say, I’m on a mountain top, resting…enjoying the view. The air seems sweeter up here…am I basking in God’s goodness? Or am I somewhat proud – looking back at the steep, daunting path that I just endured – thinking I made it on my own two feet? I’m allowed to enjoy the mountain top God created it for me, just as he created the valley and strengthened me to journey up and through it.