One of my favorite devotional books is “The Valley of Vision”, a collection of Puritan prayers compiled by Arthur Bennett. The prayers, hymns and devotions in that book are so raw and honest and humble; I can’t help but read them over and over just so that maybe my prayer life would one day reach the depths of those whose prayers are cited in it.
The first prayer in the book is by far my favorite.
Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly, Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision, where I live in the depths but see Thee in the heights; hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold Thy glory. Let me learn by paradox that the way down is the way up, that to be low is to be high, that the broken heart is the healed heart, that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit, that the repenting soul is the victorious soul, that to have nothing is to possess all, that to bear the cross is to wear the crown, that to give is to receive, that the valley is the place of vision. Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells, and the deeper the wells the brighter Thy stars shine; let me find Thy light in my darkness, Thy life in my death, Thy joy in my sorrow, Thy grace in my sin, Thy riches in my poverty, Thy glory in my valley.
I love the phrases, “the valley is the place of vision” and “the deeper the wells the brighter Thy stars shine”.
As 2013 ended a week or so ago, my initial reaction was to be extremely thankful. I was very glad to say goodbye to last year. I have definitely spent the last year or two in a valley. Of course there have been a few “hills” along the way, but overall it was a toughie for me personally. But this morning when I re-read that prayer, God reminded me that He shows up in the valley. We are most often times drawn closer to Him when we are in the pit then when we are in the palace. True spiritual growth struggles to take place, at least in my own heart, on the mountaintops. The times that are the hardest for me are also the times where, after some kicking against the goads; I see true growth and maturity take place.
So, even though I am very excited for a new year and new beginnings; I want to praise God that He never leaves us or forsakes us (Hebrews 13:5) even in the deepest, darkest pits.
Ezekiel 37 has always been a fascinating story to me. God takes the prophet Ezekiel out into the middle of a valley full of bones. Then God speaks and breathes life into the dry bones through the prophesying of Ezekiel. The next thing Ezekiel knows the bones are covered in flesh and tendons, the breathe of life enters them and they turn into a vast army. God finishes his visual teaching lesson by saying to Israel through Ezekiel, “Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. AndI will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord.” (Ezekiel 37:12-14)
Yes, God often places us in valleys. But, He also promises us that even in the valley He is with us and He will be there to breath life into us as we draw closer to him.
Let me find Thy light in my darkness, Thy life in my death, Thy joy in my sorrow, Thy grace in my sin, Thy riches in my poverty, Thy glory in my valley. (The Valley of Vision)