**This is a message I delivered for Women's Sunday at New Jerusalem MB Church in Hollywood, Pastor Michael Anderson, in 2011. I came across it today in search of something else. And thought I would share it with you. Tell me what you think.***
God’s ways are not mine nor does He think anyway remotely to the way I think – I have learned that in some difficult ways because of my keen ability to be hard-headed. God’s methods of teaching are also not something we can research and fully comprehend until He puts you in the very operation that He is performing. He will not always provide anesthesia – so we will occasionally feel pain. He will not always provide pre-surgery counseling – so we will find ourselves undergoing a procedure that simply is. Yet, He is able to wonderfully purge of us every toxin that we’ve ingested, that was infused and that was born of hell.
If I read the move of God correctly, this past week and quite honestly these last 36 or so months I have been engaged in a series of divine surgical procedures. These procedures are what I have come to know as the valleys we must experience. These valleys come to show us what we’re working with. These valleys are not warm, fuzzy, welcoming places as you journey through them. If I share what I have experienced from my season in the valleys, I can tell you that there are times when you will wander into caves that sometimes touch the outskirts of valleys; then there are times when in this cavernous place, you will realize that one turn has taken you into a pit, within a cave in the valley and there you are - deep into those matters that run deeper still in the valleys. I, in fact was so deep in that pit, in the cave, in the valley this past week that I emailed and called a friend of mine and said HELP! I NEED AN INTERVENTION. I am not feeling like I can get out of this valley. I submit and honestly believe that the valley does not come to see what you feel like, but to make you cry out long enough to get bold enough to move on – whether you feel like it or not.
I sat on my porch one morning reading the word, specifically James 1 : 2 – 3, the King James version says: 2My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;
3Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. The New International Version, the version I read that morning reads: 2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”
As soon as I read the passage, I heard something – I heard the Lord ask a simple, bold and quite honestly confounding question for me. What does a trial have to do with a valley? This question baffled me. Part of my reading that morning was in preparation for this occasion, so it seemed to me that when I moved to this passage I was in a perfect place to study and learn about these valleys of life. So imagine my surprise, when I am asked what does a trial have to do with a valley? I read that scripture several times in those few minutes, surely this was a trick question. Aren’t they synonymous? I felt like Ezekiel – what do trials have to do with a valley – Lord surely you know.
I carried this question in my mind and in my spirit for a couple of days – the answer evading me. Surely, since verse 12 of that same chapter says: 12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. – a trial and a valley must be the same thing. Why then would this question come at such a time of preparation, and why did the answer not come with it? I sent text messages to a couple of friends, I spoke with another and they offered wonderful observations – yet that certain something that clicks when it is the just right thing - did not happen.
I needed that answer because I had an assignment. I needed to share the power and the truth about the fact that the valleys come to show you what you are working with. So I pondered my valleys or perhaps my one expansive valley experience. If I could identify when I entered this place I would have to say it is when I stepped away from a 24 year career in radio. I did not expect to step into a valley or I probably would have remained disobedient and afraid of my faith and stayed where I was. Surely, none of us would purposely step into a valley when we understand it as a dark, dreary and even death-laden place as described in the 23rd Psalms.
But I believe that is in fact what happened, I stepped into a valley and learned immediately that the valley will teach you that the first step you cannot see may not place you into a comfortable place. The valley will show you that you must work with your reality, understanding that your reality in the valley will become more about who you were born and destined to be than who you are. I stepped into a valley that found me staring into the face of a hard and life-changing medical diagnosis; only to be told while dealing with that diagnosis that my Type 2 diabetes was out of control. Then within months I would find my right arm tormented with the pain of shingles; the appearance on my arm baffling doctors who said it never appears there. I recognized it as an attack because I am right handed and it is that hand and arm that I rely on so much. I would find myself back in the emergency room a few weeks later after my students at the women’s detention center, said, “Teacher E you don’t look good.” The diagnosis in the emergency room left me shaking my head, “Your diabetes level is fluctuating wildly and you have pneumonia,” they said. “We’re going to keep you for a couple of days.” I rested my head on the billow, feeling each ounce of oxygen being released into my body through a slim tube inserted in my nose.
That bit of news would not even prepare me for the weeks ahead when an exam would reveal a lump in my breast and I found myself faced with a biopsy and remembering that breast cancer had visited my mother twice though it never beat her. But God is faithful and through each thing - what the enemy hoped would sit me down, kill my creativity and stifle my purpose only made me more determined to get up and keep it moving. Satan clearly did not get the memo about my stubborness. The valley will teach you that death will come looking for you but when you move in God, not even death has to kill you.
In this valley, I found myself in Atlanta just before Christmas after dealing with the medical challenges, standing in a hospital room with my mom, my aunt and my son – praying as doctors took my uncle who had suffered 3 major strokes in as many days off of life support. Only to come back to South Florida and be told my son and I had one week to leave the place we were staying. Valley. But God is faithful and while we had to leave a neighborhood we had grown accustomed to, He still provided a safe place for us to land.
In this valley, I discovered what Joseph learned about relationships and dreams – they are not always things that can be partnered. Your dreams revealed too soon and to those who were not designed for the interpretation can become an automatic invitation to be belittled, berated, disregarded, disrespected, scorned and laughed at by those you assume should support you when no one else will. It becomes an invitation to be buried in a pit in the valley. Sometimes dreamers are considered a strange breed – for what we see through our eyes – will not add up to the practical and logical thinking of many. Yet it will make sense and we will carry it in the valley, clinging to it like those stranded in a desert who only have one canteen of water. The valley will show you that you are working with a spiritual eye that sees what cannot be visualized by the natural eye and cannot be explained to those who can only see in the temporal earthly realm.
In this valley, I awoke one morning and discovered that people who have always been around, or who had been around for many years were suddenly gone. Some I let go of, but many, when I considered it - God moved and some moved themselves far away from the strange fruit I had become. This strange fruit did not taste right or fit right in typical fruit bowls anymore. This strange fruit became a very bitter and perhaps nasty taste in the mouths of some. You know when you become strange fruit, because the actions and mannerisms of others will speak louder and clearer than any words they can ever mutter. I was something that was peculiar – but isn’t that we are God-called to be – peculiar? Why would I want to start a business based on people’s vision, creativity and dreams in this economy? Why would I want to start digital magazines promoting Christ dependent on advertisers in this economy? Why would I start a publishing company for new authors who wanted to self publish and provide some traditional publishing services in this economy? Why would I walk away from a job where everyone knew my name and start over in obscurity? Why would I step away from a position with a nice paycheck bi-weekly into a valley where money would be funny, shady and often just not there? Why would I lose friends, vehicles and other material things, take blows to my integrity and my dignity for the sake of a vision? Who am I to believe that there is a reason I would spend 24 years in the broadcasting business primarily in the background, but God would decide to pull me to the forefront to speak my peculiar understanding of who He is? The valley will show you that you are working with a resolve that will stop explaining and start excelling. The valley will show you that even relationships we do not think are up for discussion can be shattered for the sake of a deeper relationship with The One who will not leave us or forsake us. The valley will show you that your brand of peculiar may no longer fit your familiar place; but your new destined realms or territory will fit your peculiar brand.
In this valley I have encountered strange but friendly; and prophetic yet contrary spirits, who introduced themselves as prophets of the Word, and divinely-sent partners to my potential. They had the answers and the methodology to bring me out of my valley place as long as they were attached. Yet God would show me the character behind the mask and the ulterior motive beneath the move. God would also show me in this valley that He could pull out of me, whatever He wanted to and what He was going to pull out was so powerful that the pretenders (or those who did not want to move through their own valley) would want to simply attach to what they could see on the other side of mine. The valley shows you that you are working with something so powerful that while you may not see it in you or on you – there are others around you that do. The valley shows you that even when you cannot see it and you do not want to feel the weight of that greatness within in your low place; it is absolutely there for you to tap into – if you work with what the valley is showing you.
Valleys show you what you are working with. Dr. D. W. Paterson wrote that we often know God and cling to God when He is the Lord of the Mountaintops, but we must remember that He is also the God of the valleys. The Bible talks about various types of valleys. There is the valley of the shadow of death, in Psalms 23:4; there is the valley known as Baca from Psalms 84:5-6: "Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; in whose heart are the ways of them. Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well; the rain also filleth the pools" and there are the valleys of Bear-rock-ah and Akor, Siddom, Eschol, Kidron, Elah, Jezreel, Gehennah. Each of these valleys has their own characteristic, a place to repent, a place of hell, a place of slime and decay, and others teach us a specific lesson about our walk with the Lord – peace, hope, and knowing that God is with us even in the darkest places.
I believe that when we begin to completely seek and align ourselves with the pure and sincere divinity of God, we are invited and even challenged to experience the lessons of the valleys. Before we get to the happy place valleys, we must move through some slime, some trauma, some hard places, some pits in the caves in the valleys – especially when our level of peculiarity is even more peculiar than what is Biblically normal.
Several dictionaries define valleys as:
1. An elongated lowland between ranges of mountains, hills, or other uplands, often having a river or stream running along the bottom.
2. An extensive area of land drained or irrigated by a river system.
In fact geology notes indicate that most valleys are actually full of vegetation because of the presence of rivers and streams running along them. That intrigued me, because what I then needed to realize is that even though we have come to accept the valley has a desolate place and in fact it is – and if I can be completely honest and upfront I would wished I did not have to have experienced the valleys that I have nor am I looking forward to any more difficult valleys - we must understand that the valley is more than a low place between two high places. A valley, according to the geological studies, is a place where there is lush vegetation and water and sunlight – it is a place of growth. It is in the valley that we become like a tree planted by the rivers of water. The river of the water that we truly thirst for. You remember the water that Jesus offered the woman, that water runs through the valley; it nourishes the vegetation that becomes purpose.
While there are valleys that have caves on their outskirts, there is also the river of life flowing through it, causing new life to burst through its terrain. The valley comes to show you that you are working with terrain that you must break through, a place that is as full of hope as it is desolation, and you have been blessed to know the God of the valleys; as you come to know Him as they did in First Kings 20 verse 28 "And there came a man of God, and spake unto the king of Israel, and said, Thus saith the LORD, Because the Syrians have said, The LORD is God of the hills, but he is not God of the valleys, therefore will I deliver all this great multitude into thine hand, and ye shall know that I am the LORD."
So get back to the question Claudette - what do trials have to do with a valley? I can only share with you what was revealed to me, and perhaps my personal revelation will help clarify some things that you have struggled with as well. I cannot be the only one who has been in the forgotten places of the hard regions of the valley – crying and waiting and trusting and waiting and believing and wondering – God you do know I’m still here right?
A trial absolutely has to do with the growing of an unwavering faith. Trials come so that you learn God in every area of your life – you know Him as Jehovah Jireh, Jehovah Rophe, Jehovah Shalom. You come to know Him as El-ohim and El-Shaddai. Trials are about building a relationship of faith with and in The Father.
Valleys are about your spirit. Valleys are about the dominion, purposed and divine empowering and in-pouring of destiny into your spirit by the Spirit. Valleys are about being infused with all things of the Spirit so that you are indwelled with an increased understanding of your holy authority and thus you follow your calling at all costs and infuse others with the same. Thus everything that has made itself at home in this place of growth must be dealt with in a season that feels like isolation, solitude and desertion. In this place where you cannot hear anything, not even The Lord, God simply wants you to be quiet in the quiet so that you can hear what the silence is saying. Valleys are the welcome mats that quickly progressing peculiar children of God must walk over in order to operate fully in the authority of their calling. The valleys come to show you that you are working with dominion, purpose, authority and power and anything less will disturb your trying to live regular self.
I do not know how close I am to the end of my valley; yet I pray, (Lord have mercy do I pray) that is very close at hand. I do not know how close you are to the end of your valley – but I do know that our valleys have come to show us that we are working with a God who can do crazy and amazing things in the valley, just like He can on the mountaintop or any other ascended place. The valley comes in fact to show you that you are already in position for your place of ascension; you need only to keep moving. Move through the pain, move through the tears, move when you’ve been like me stuck and disconnected - feeling like the valley is the only home in Christ you will ever know. Know this, the valley comes to show you that they are working on you because you are a force to be reckoned with in the move of God and because you are - there are some valleys that the enemy will drag you into, there are some valleys that he will influence you to walk into, there are some valleys you will walk into with your eyes wide open trying to avoid the valley place God has directed and ordained for you – just remember that the valley prepared by the Lord is but the removing of the toxins and tumors that can kill your Kingdom territorial advancement. And remember, death in the valley is not an option if you do not allow it to be, for He has said you will walk through the valley of the shadow of death. That shadow, that image of the valley as a low and stagnant place is all about perception, your dominion assignment and your showing up to do it is the true reality and that is what the valleys come to show you. The valleys come to show you what you are working with and who you are working with is the God of the Valleys, who can make a low place feel like a seat on His throne. Can you show your valley that you know what you’re working with, drink from the river, burst through the terrain and walk in your purpose?
A Georgia girl that loves quiet, a good neo-Soul, R & B or gospel song, and a chilled tall class of diet cola.