“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4
It happened last Sunday. As churches across America started celebrating Thanksgiving week, I had a front-seat opportunity to witness thanksgiving attitudes from two opposite altitudes: the valley and the mountaintop.
I was walking into the choir room when I saw her. She had her usual smile across her face, but her eyes were shining with renewed joy. I hurried towards her, eager to find out about the great news. My friend was offered a job last week. But, wait! Not just any job. She was offered the job she was praying for, under the exact conditions she prayed for, and within a fairly short period of time. As she told me the details, tears of gratitude started flowing down my face.
What an awesome God we serve! Not only did He answer our prayers, He did so in a way that there is no denying that it came from His inexhaustible blessing bank.
Later in the day, while waiting for my daughter’s rehearsal to start, another friend spotted me from across the aisle. As we greeted, I asked her about her daughter, who is enduring truly difficult circumstances. She is a professional ballerina and is currently facing the possibility of not being able to dance… at least not for quite some time. Her world, as she knew it, has been deeply shaken. And yet, we were filled with emotion as my friend shared how God is working in her daughter’s life.
We hugged good bye, thankful for the promise we have in Christ: That He works all things together for His children’s good and His glory. (Romans 8:28).
As I lay in bed this morning, I thought about each friend’s experience.
Thanksgiving would be naturally easy for my first friend.
And extremely difficult for the second.
And yet, they both found the secret to the heart of Thanksgiving: That both the mountaintop and the valley are given (or allowed) by the same loving, omnipotent, merciful God.
Thanksgiving Lessons in the Valley:
It is hard to focus on the goodness of God when dark clouds come over our lives. It’s not easy to stay focused on Him when our health is failing… or death reaches our family… or our finances are collapsing. And yet, I am typing these words with the certainty of a person who has been through many such trials. Some of which I still face. What I have learned is that the main lesson in each valley is not that the valley is necessarily a short experience, but rather, that it does not matter how long it will last – what matters is that we do not forget that our Shepherd is with us!
Oh, that we would grasp with all our heart and soul the power behind this truth: That the lesson in the shadow of the valley of death is not a message of despair, but rather, Thanksgiving!
“Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” V.6 (emphasis mine).
Indeed, David is shouting out to you and me: Is it dark? I know you can’t see it, but the Shepherd is holding your hand. You shall not stumble and fall. Thank Him for His protection in the valley.
Are you tired and weary? He is ready to lead you beside the still waters and the green pastures that you will find in His presence (v.2). Open your Bible to Psalms. Meditate upon His faithfulness, goodness and eternal mercy. Thank Him for His rest in the valley.
And lastly… remember this: A valley is not a valley without mountains around it. There’s a mountaintop just beside your valley and the journey will take you there. As a matter of fact, you may just be on the mountainside and don’t know it. Indeed, the journey gets harder, steeper, rougher, as you get ready to conquer that mountain. As you climb, God is teaching you diligence and trust. He is strengthening your faith muscles.
As my dear friend, who got her dream job, told me last Sunday: “I have never experienced God as I have during these past months.” She praised Him when she did not feel like it. She trusted His presence was with her when it did not seem like so. She trusted His Word, not her feelings. And as the climb became more difficult, steeper, she held on to His rod and His staff for comfort (v.4). Her faith is now stronger. Her joy, deeper. Her love for her Savior, sweeter than ever. All because she CHOSE to trust.
The mountaintop is a promise. The valley, a Holy teaching ground. As we walk through the valleys of death, loneliness, pain or financial distress, let us trust the Master with each lesson He has for us. And let us hold on to He who is walking beside us all the way to the mountaintop.
That is what true, unshakable Thanksgiving is all about.
- There are days in the valley when we may feel the Potter’s hands molding our character, chipping away those brute things in us that do not belong in a child of God… and that hurts. Choose to thank Him. He is equipping you to fulfill His purpose for your life.
- There are days in which His silence makes us want to take matters into our own hands… it hurts to wait. Choose to trust God and lean not to your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5). It’s not because God is silent that He is not working on your behalf. Remember, trust is a choice, not a feeling!
Verses to Meditate Upon:
“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
“Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.” Isaiah 64:4