When my family and I visited the Great Smokey Mountains we took a fun little hike to Abram’s Falls in Cades Cove. As a writer, when I think of that hike I can’t help but make some analogies.
What is life like in a literal valley? How does that enlighten us as we travel through the valleys of life? What can we learn here?
Some valleys offer a path. Our Abram’s Falls trek did. It was a well-worn path. Many of the valleys we face in life will be well traveled paths worn down by many others who have made the same trek. We can gather a small amount of comfort from the fact that we are not the only ones who have faced, or are facing this particular valley. In fact, many of the valleys we face have a trail that was blazed by our Savior Himself. The valleys of persecution, personal loss, betrayal, ostracism, loss of a family member, loneliness, being abandoned by friends, facing seemingly insurmountable obstacles, and the valley of the shadow of death. To know that The One sho loves us so has cleared the way gives us courage to keep walking the path before us.
Some valleys are dense, dark thickets in which we feel lost. These valleys seem to have no path. Walking through them we seem to wake up and find ourselves surrounded by dense dark forest, brush and high undergrowth.
It’s not that others haven’t walked them, but they are overgrown with decisions, confusion, chaos. The darkness that surrounds us can overwhelm. We feel lost. We grope around for a way out. There seems to be no direction on which way to proceed. After days and weeks of wandering we begin to wonder if we are getting anywhere or just going in circles.
Orienting by the sun. In our life struggles we may feel like aimless wanderers with no idea of which way to turn. At these times what can keep us going in the right direction? The only way is to look up to the Son. Just as seafarers and explorers of old used the sun for orienteering, we orient ourselves by the Son. We can’t look around us. It is useless. Looking at those circumstances and obstacles keeps us blinded to what we really need to do and to what we need to focus on.
Sometimes it seems dark in a literal valley. Things tower over us and blot out the sun, threatening to discourage us with their gloom and causing us to lose our way. In figurative valleys we must go into survival mode at times like that, following the Son every time we catch a glimpse of Him. Then we rest in the “shadow of the Almighty” whenever we can’t see the way to climb out or don’t have the strength to go any further.
Our compass, map, and guide. God’s Word to us becomes our compass to find direction and a way out of the valley. His words point us in the right direction and we follow in faith however dark the valley may be. Jesus’ life becomes a map as we follow the paths He would have traveled. The One who created this earth and this very valley and terrain we find ourselves lost in is the One who will be our guide back to the mountain. A mountaintop always follows a valley, you know!
The One who holds our future in His hands, holds our hands as we walk through the valley. With our compass aimed at True North we will find ourselves heading east toward the Risen Son.