Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  James 1:2-4

Last week my wife and I were able to meet up with some old and dear friends from our past.  Our friends described some amazing experiences they’d had since we had seen them last and, in their words, some of the “valleys” as well.

Our common parlance reveals our prejudice.  Mountaintop experiences are great.  Valleys of shadow are bad.  Mountains are inspiring.  Climbing to the top of a mountain gives one a glorious view, not to mention an awesome sense of accomplishment.  Descending into a valley forces one to focus on one’s own problems.  Perspective can be lost in the valley.  It can be depressing.

But something very important happens in valleys.  That is where we are challenged to grow.  The valley is the place where we can be pushed beyond our ability to cope and be compelled to turn to the Lord and His people for support.  Valleys can be extremely productive, building our patience, kindness, courage, compassion, and wisdom.  I have often joined people as they traveled through a valley and found that I hated what they were experiencing, but loved what it was doing to them.  That was definitely the case for our old friends.  They had grown in wisdom and maturity and the very love of Christ.

Once we have traversed enough of those valleys, we can start to gain some perspective on them.  We can look back on them with a respectful appreciation for what we gained there.  But God expects more from us than grudging appreciation.  He wants us to experience them as pure joy.  That may sound far fetched to most of us.  But that probably reflects how most of us feel about spiritual growth.  We consider it nice to have, but not as important as our comfort.  If we have to experience emotional or physical hardship (read valleys) to grow, then maybe growth isn’t that important.

Wrong, my friends.  Becoming like Christ is worth more than all the creature comforts in the world.  Next time the valley comes into your view, embrace it with affection.  It is the fast lane to spiritual maturity, the glory of Christ in you.