Summary: People assume that God’s leading always takes us to the mountaintop. A valley means you find a way out. That's a wrong assumption.
“A Valley Means a Wrong Turn”
We’re winding down our message series called Mythbusters. We only have today and next Sunday left in this series. We are focusing in on spiritual myths. These myths are based on false understandings of scripture and they always lead you down the wrong path. Today’s myth is: “A Valley Means a Wrong Turn.”
Life will not always be great. It’s inevitable. No matter how well your life is going, you will, sooner or later, go through what can be called a “valley experience.” A “valley experience” is in contrast to a “mountaintop experience.”
The valley represents all kinds of low places in life. It might be the loss of a job, problems in a relationship, struggles in personal matters, financial difficulties, or any number of various and sundry hardships and misfortunes.
A good working definition of a valley for our time together this morning would be: “prolonged moments of pain and suffering that we seek to escape.” Most people would rather be climbing the mountain than trudging through the valley. This morning, we’re going to look at a spiritual myth that says that a long-term valley could never be a part of God’s long-term plan.
When faced with a valley that lingers for some time, especially one with no apparent end in sight, people tend to assume that they have taken a wrong turn. They assume that God’s leading always takes us to the mountaintop. A valley means you find a way out, no matter what it takes to do so.
That’s the false assumption. That’s a misinterpretation of scripture. That’s the spiritual myth. A valley means a wrong turn and a wrong turn means you find a way out.
Now, obviously, some valleys are the result of a wrong turn. Both the Old and the New Testaments warn about the consequences that come from our sinful and foolish decisions. Solomon tells us in Prov. 19:3 – A person’s own folly leads to their ruin, yet their heart rages against the LORD.
The idea that every long-term valley is a mistake and should automatically be wiggled out of is a fallacy. It simply ignores the long history of God’s dealing with his people and the clear teaching of Scripture.
Those who buy into this myth face several serious problems. The first problem is that important spiritual lessons are ignored. You don’t learn the really valuable lessons on the mountai top. You learn them in the valley.
The second problem is that the development of godly character is stunted. Hard times stimulate the growth of godly character. Refusing to walk through the valley keeps us from growing the way that we should.
The third problem is that self-centered decisions are made in the name of getting out of the pain as quickly as possible. Everyone has their valleys. If I just focus on mine, every decision I make point the attention on me. Phil. 2:3-4 – Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
The result of living by this spiritual myth is that we miss an opportunity to see God’s power in action. If we run from every messy situation on the assumption that God can’t be in it, we’ll never experience the miraculous power of his deliverance. After all, a miracle needs a mess. It always has and always will. It’s part of the process. Tough trials and “Help me, Jesus!” experiences aren’t always a lot of fun but without them there’s not much need for God to show up.
This spiritual myth not only hurts us, it hurts others. If we assume that long-term pain and hardship are totally unacceptable and automatically outside of God’s will, then whatever harm or heartbreak we may cause others in our haste to get out becomes mere collateral damage – an unfortunate but unavoidable part of our quest for happiness.
Many of us theoretically know that God uses hardships to train and equip us – to build character and to sometimes carry out His will. But something fundamentally changes when the deep and lengthy valley is our valley. The truths we so easily accept in theory and so quickly apply to others become difficult to fathom in our own life.
Let’s be honest with each other. It is hard to imagine any scenario in which an all-knowing and all-loving God would want us to endure a lengthy time of frustration and disappointment. That’s why, when we find ourselves mired in an extended painful valley, we tend to immediately start looking for the quickest way out. We assume something must have gone terribly wrong.
I wish I could say it’s a trap into which I’ve never fallen but I have. The myth that a valley must mean a wrong turn tends to gain credibility the longer or deeper our own personal valley gets.