I love Christmas! It is hands down my favorite time of year. The twinkling lights, sweet treats are nice; but most importantly, Christmas is the time of year we celebrate the fact that God so loved the world that He sent his one and only son to be with us.
This Christmas season at Shift, I want to spend a few weeks focusing in on what it means for God to be with us. This whole Idea comes from one core verse that introduces my favorite name for God. It is found in the first biography of Jesus, written by Matthew:
Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’ -Matthew 1:23
Immanuel, God with us. For those of us who are Christians, this is the thing that makes following Jesus so unique. God is not some god far off in the distance but rather dwells with us. God with us. Immanuel.
I have found something to be true in my life, and maybe you can relate to me. Maybe you’re experiencing it right now. It’s about God’s influence in our life during all moments.
It is so easy to believe that God is with us when everything seems to be going so good in your life. When you are in a “mountain top moment” — a raise at work; the Gators beating FSU; your kids sleep through the night; you ace your finals without pulling an all-nighter – it’s much easier to feel He is close. when it’s all good, it’s all God.
But, it is always more difficult to feel God is with you when you are in the valley. When you have a bad review at work; when you find yourself feeling alone or afraid; when you get a diagnosis you never expected; or if you’ve found yourself battling with anxiety or depression, these are “Valley moments”.
Today, we are going to be talking about God in the Valley. Everything can be going so well and then the valley opens up; it’s that one thing that makes your life feel like its falling apart. Sometimes we are enjoying a mountain top moment and then suddenly we find ourselves taken right into the valley.
That was me 4 ½ years ago. Everything was going super awesome in my family’s life. We had just launched Shift Church, and we were having a blast, and so many cool God things were happening. We had just celebrated our very first Easter! It was incredible.
And suddenly, in the middle of celebrating all that God was doing, we found ourselves dropped into a deep, dark valley: our son, Wyatt, drowned in our pool 2 days after Easter.
This is the worst valley moment that I could think of. By nothing short of a miracle, our son is alive and continues to recover, but has a significant brain injury as a result of his time without oxygen. We were on the mountain top praising God, and then we found ourselves in the valley.
Circumstances like this are so incredibly common. Mountain moments so often are followed by Valley moments. Maybe marriage has never been more blessed, but you have a kid that really struggling in school. Maybe you’re so excited about this Christmas season, but then you got a call that your parent’s health is failing fast.
Where is God in the Valley? We know that our personal valleys are places of battles and loneliness and desperation. I believe valleys are also a place of growth and maturing of faith.
We may enjoy God on the mountaintops, but we get to know him intimately in the valleys. We know God is in the good moments, but we get to know God intimately and personally when we are going through the valley.
Look at how the Psalmist wrote about the valley in Psalms 84 verse 5:
Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
6 As they pass through the Valley of Baka,
they make it a place of springs;
the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
7 They go from strength to strength,
till each appears before God in Zion. -Psalm 84:5-7 NIV
The Valley of Baka was also called the valley of tears or weeping, a valley known for to be nearly impossible to travel through without facing trouble and obstacles.
The verse starts off with Blessed are those whose strength is in you…
All of us, regardless of if you know God personally or not, have had a moment where we have said, “I’ve had enough” or “I’m done.” When this happens, where does our strength come from to continue? Well, if you don’t know God personally, what you have is all you have.
The verse doesn’t say “blessed are those who make it on their own”. It says Blessed are those who find their strength in the Lord. We are created to depend on God. When you hit the end of your strength, in the valley, when you have given it all you have, His strength is made perfect in your weakness.
Then it continues in verse 5, let’s look at in from the New Living Translation:
What joy for those whose strength comes from the Lord, who have set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. -Psalms 84:5 NLT
They are on a journey to Jerusalem, known as a place of peace or a place of refuge. We might be in a valley right now, but we have set our minds to the place of peace. According to this verse, to get to the place of refuge you have to travel through the valley of tears. Blessed are those who have their minds set towards God – our place of peace and refuge. What you think about matters!
Paul, an early church leader, wrote in Colossians 3:
Set your minds on what is above, not on what is on earth.
He also wrote in Philippians chapter 4:
Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
Repeat this: “My current circumstances may be in the valley but, my mind is fixed on God!”
When you are in the valley your mind is set on God. When your heart may be anxious, your mind is fixed on God. When your soul may be aching, your mind is fixed on God. When your emotions are all over the map, your mind is fixed on God.
Let’s take a look at verse 6:
As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. -Psalms 84:6 NIV
We may be in a valley, but the valley is not our destination. We pass through the valley. Keep in mind that the valley is just part of the road that leads you to the place of peace. God is getting you through the valley.
Psalms 23 talks about passing through the valley,
Even when I go through the darkest valley, I fear no danger, for You are with me. -Psalms 23:4 HCSB
Sometimes it seems like the valley is never going to end, and when that happens, speak truth into it: “Hey, I’m just passing through this valley.”
As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs…
The King James Version says they make it a well. When you are in a dry desert valley…you dig a well. God is going to send rain…but you have to be prepared for Him to show up.
It’s our responsibility to show our faith, even in the valley. God asks you to show your faith and He will show you His faithfulness. If you dig it—God will fill it. God says, “If you draw near to me, I will draw near to you. If you seek me, you will find me.”
You might be desperate for an encounter with God…but, have you made the preparations for God to show up. Make a well and then wait for God to fill it. Be prepared for the presence of God!
When you’re preparing to sail a boat, you get the boat ready and prepare the sails — but only God can make the wind blow.
Are you prepared for God to show up in the valley?
God never says you won’t go through the valleys…but you never have to go through the valleys alone. God is with us! God strength is made perfect in my weakness. We go through the valley, but the valley is not a destination. Our mind is fixed on God, and we need to prepare for God to show up.
We enjoy God on the mountaintop but we get to know Him in the valley. Praise God on the mountain top; Praise God in the Valley.
My God is light in the darkness
My God is peace in the storm
God is joy in the trouble
He’s your strength when you’re weak