The Paradox of Peaks and Valleys
“May there be abundant grain throughout the land, flourishing even on the hilltops.”
King Solomon in Psalm 72:16 (NLT)
I remember when I was a kid, a boy scout, I went to a camp in New Mexico. For a mid-westerner, this was the trip of a lifetime. Where I grew up, rolling green hills covered with grass and trees were the norm. This part of the west was completely different. Huge mountains, 10,000+ elevations. We had the privilege to climb a few of them, super challenging! I remember hiking up one peak called Baldy Mountain; a well-deserved name. Nothing grew on top. The thing is that nothing grew on top of any of these giants. All of them were “bald”! (Who knows why Baldy Mountain was the one that earned the name??)
On the other hand, the valleys were full of trees and shrubs, lush even given the dry conditions there. Isn’t that the way it works; the peaks are barren and the valleys lush? Scientifically this makes sense – elevation, temperature extremes and the fact that water runs downhill makes for pretty harsh growing conditions on top. Turns out that this is quite similar to the way our relationship with God works. After climbing to reach a spiritual peak, so grateful for the experience, we find ourselves in the midst of poor growing conditions. Peaks lead to times of drifting away from the God who got us here. We become more self-reliant, comfortable and little fruit grows. But in our valleys (oh those challenging times!) our relationship with God is rich and fertile, producing much fruit. We need him! It’s here that we become most contagious. Herein lies the paradox:
Though peaks are infertile and valleys produce much fruit, we long for the peaks and we dread the valleys.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve emerged from a fertile valley reaching for a spiritual peak. After the long journey I finally take a deep breath, relax and enjoy. Who wouldn’t want to be here? It feels so good! Over time… a little more relaxing, a little more enjoyment and before you know it, I find myself far from God. I’ve become self-reliant. My testimony grows stale; often it doesn’t even occur to me to tell it. So little fruit.
God nudges me. The notion comes that I have become complacent, comfortable. I think, “I need to change something…” My stomach turns. I dread this point. I know it’s good, the right thing for me, my relationship with God and for the Kingdom but, ugh, it will be hard, painful, challenging. Have you been here before? Many people are sitting at this point right now. I understand, believe me! The dread.
“The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”
Jesus Christ in John 10:10 (NLT)
Of course, this is precisely where our crafty enemy likes to go on the offensive. He casts his lies, disparaging God’s truth, to keep us on our barren peak. He does everything possible to stop the expansion of God’s Kingdom. God on the other hand calls us to the valley, wanting so much to have us close to him again. He loves intimacy with us. He’s been seeking to restore this deepest of all relationships since the fall of man. He wants us to depend on him, trust the promises he made to us so long ago, and give us life to the full.
Like a ship tossed in the waves, we find ourselves wavering back and forth. What to do?
This is hard stuff! Our enemy knows our weaknesses well, one being that we love to project the future without God in it. He is so crafty! Was it not God who brought us up to reach that peak? …and every previous peak? How quickly we forget as we create wild images of the future based on the twisted truth of the enemy. He whispers, “But what if you run out of money and end up living on the street?” or “What if you fail and people call you a fool?” Such lies, all directly contradicting God’s promises. Our doubts make us vulnerable to his schemes.
“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. 6 But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. 7 Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.
James 1:5-8 (NLT)
God calls to us with arms open wide, “Come to me! Ask me and I will help you. I made this promise to you long ago. Trust me!”
When we have reached a peak, our fruitfulness dwindling, God calls us to surrender a doubt and accept another of his promises.
As I describe in my book, Unlock Your Life, 5 Steps and a Jump to Living the Adventure God Made You For (Black 2019), this is when you must make a Jump on your Spiritual S Curve. As we accept God’s invitation to come closer, he challenges us to embrace a promise he has made and in so doing, give up a false belief. Which one? The one the enemy has twisted. The one that has amplified fear, creating doubt in the story ahead of you. God will make it plain to you when you come close to him. “Trust me with this.” he says. “My purpose is to give you a rich and satisfying life close to me.”
Make no mistake, the term Jump means jump! Does it mean a major change in career (or other) overnight? No! Perhaps later.
For now, God says, “start living in the truth of my promise.”
At this point it’s simply a change in belief; hard, but costs little in the worldly sense. Make no mistake about this either…. If you are really living in the truth of this promise, it will lead to a change in your life. Your belief will be tested as you confront a more costly change in your life. This time though, your future will be projected with God in it as you trust his promise. The result will be a fertile valley, full of fruit, and a closeness to God like never before.
“May the king’s rule be refreshing like spring rain on freshly cut grass, like the showers that water the earth. 7 May all the godly flourish during his reign…”
King Solomon in Psalm 72 (NLT)
When we let Jesus rule, it is like a spring rain that makes all things flourish.
He calls us to break the paradox by reaching for new peaks and longing for valleys.
He says “Rise up from your valleys to reach new peaks and you will produce tremendous harvests along the way. Then trust me as you make a bold Jump away from barrenness to accept the next promise I’ve made to you.”
The godly flourish in the cycle, never resting long on the peaks.
Are you at peak wondering what to do? Is God calling you, his arms open wide, inviting you to move closer to him? It’s time to make a bold Jump on your Spiritual S Curve to enter into the Adventure God Made You For. Let’s talk.
Go to www.bobblackcoaching.com to schedule a free consultation.