We often wish from our limited life experiences that our journey to the kingdom would be easier, but we all experience different challenges. The walk to the kingdom is full of hills and valleys, needing to be encountered. When we are down in the valleys, in the low points, we tend to think negatively. There we feel discouraged and consumed with our problems. We may think, “as soon as I get out of this situation then I can be happy and thankful, then I can be grateful and have a positive outlook”. But in what appears to be a total contradiction, scripture doesn’t talk about valleys of defeat and negativity, it talks about a “Valley of Blessing”.

God makes it clear He won’t prevent us from going into valleys, in fact He says, “I may lead you there, but I will bless you there”. He is more focused on delivering us in the valley than delivering us from the valley. Let’s take exhortation from 2 Chronicles 20 and see an example of this in action.

Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah were surrounded by three major armies. The enemy had already come across the Dead Sea and were in the valley of Engedi. When Jehoshaphat received the news, the confederate armies were merely 15 hours away. Judah didn’t stand a chance; they were greatly outnumbered and were already in low spirits recovering from a defeat after the foolish alliance with King Ahab. Jehoshaphat decides to gather everyone together to pray. We can imagine complete families being very afraid. Jehoshaphat then speaks for the congregation: “O Lord God of our fathers, art not thou God in heaven? and rules not thou over all the kingdoms of the heathen? and in thine hand is there not power and might, so that none is able to withstand thee?” (v6)

What a beautiful way to start a prayer; by acknowledging to God that He is in control of all things. In verse 12, the king went on to say to God that because they were facing a stronger enemy and they didn’t know what to do, they were looking to Him. When we are in a valley, it’s ok to be honest with God. We may hear familiar lines running through our head like: “O God, I don’t see how I can ever get out of this. I don’t see how good can come from this. Why is this happening now? This doesn’t make any sense to me. Am I being punished? What have I done? Why am I constantly struggling?” That’s ok, but we can’t stay there. We’ve got to move through and say, “God, I don’t see a way, but my eyes are upon you—I know nothing is too difficult for you. All things are possible with you”.

Jehoshaphat acknowledges that they are too weak to overcome this enemy on their own. The apostle Paul used similar language in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NIV ) when he described his pleading with the Lord, more than once, for a thorn in his side to be taken away, but God answered, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”. Paul goes on to say, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why for Christ’s sake I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong”.

The valleys can be a place where we get strength from the Lord that we don’t have on our own, which we can rely on to help us through the uncertain and overwhelming circumstances of life. God actually wants us to acknowledge our inadequacies before Him, so that He can go to work for us and do what we can’t do on our own. He wants to fight the battles on our behalf, if only we will let Him! As the old saying goes: Let go and let God.

We see that the Lord answered Jehoshaphat by Jahaziel, who was the son of Zechariah. The Spirit of the Lord came upon him in the midst of the congregation:“And he said, Hearken ye, all Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem, and thou king Jehoshaphat, thus saith the Lord unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s…Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the Lord with you, O Judah and Jerusalem: fear not, nor be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them: for the Lord will be with you” (v15-17).

We may be facing big problems today, both within and without, but God is saying the same thing to us today: “Don’t lose your peace and your hope, it’s not your battle, it’s my battle”.

In verse 21, King Jehoshaphat put the singers out in front of the army. They would sing, “Praise the Lord” and the people would answer, “for His mercy endureth forever”. This act demonstrated that they really did believe—they were acting expectantly that God would deliver on His promise. What an amazing act of faith this was for the choir out in front. If the unthinkable happened and God did not intervene, they would be the first ones slaughtered by a merciless enemy. Instead of murmuring or complaining in the midst of their trial, they were taking action and praising God. What a wonderful lesson for us in times of trouble. The apostle Peter encourages us to do the same today when facing tribulation, he says: “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care (worries and anxieties) upon him; for he cartel for you” (1 Pet 5:6-7).

We have to overcome the temptation of brooding on our problems and misfortunes, focusing on the temporary and negative, and instead put our trust in Almighty God, who is eternal and knows the beginning from the end. We may not feel like it when in the valley, but God wants us to commit our worries and fears to Him in prayer—putting our faith into action by pressing forward and praising him for the strength and grace He will provide at the proper time—knowing that nothing we go through in this life will be comparable to the exceeding joy and eternal blessings of the kingdom. This will by far surpass anything imaginable and remove all sadness from life.

The praise of the singers in the midst of overwhelming odds highlights an important lesson—what we say in the valley is very important. If we become bitter and sour, then we will likely stay in that state. Sometimes people are unable to leave the valley for a LONG time, resulting in unproductive lives.

By contrast, there are many faithful affirmations in Scripture, which, when repeated verbally or silently can change one’s thinking: I can do all things through Christ… I am more than a conqueror… When I am weak He is strong… No weapon formed against me shall prosper… The battle is not mine, but God’s… Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord… If God is for me, who can stand against me… All things work together for good to those that love Him… I will not be afraid or dismayed, God is with me. When constantly repeated, these phrases will become second nature in times of stress and pain. It’s amazing how these words can change our thought pattern, disrupt our negative line of thinking, and set our eyes on the true source of strength and mercy. Saying each affirmation is like planting little seeds in our mind, and each time we meditate on the words it is like watering the seeds and letting them grow. If we don’t, the weeds of our sinful nature in the form of doubt, fear and negativity, will thrive and choke our spirit of conquering through our faith in Christ and God’s grace.

Another valuable lesson we learn from the people of Judah is that they believed wholeheartedly in God granting them the victory over the invaders before it had actually occurred. They would never have put the singers out in front if they doubted. When the enemy began to hear the singing and shouting there was confusion, they began fighting among themselves and killed each other; when Judah arrived their enemy was already defeated. What an amazing victory!

It gets better though, because God has done the same for us. As Jehoshaphat said, “none is able to withstand thee” and the apostle Paul confirms this in Romans 8:31-39 (NLT) where he says, “Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love?” Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?… No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us first”. What does “more than a conqueror” mean? It means that no matter what we are experiencing, we have the assurance that we will be victorious over every form of sin, even before the battles start.

The assurance comes through faith and devotion, starting at baptism and growing through all of life’s circumstances. John says in 1 John 5:4 (NIV ), “everyone born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world: our faith”. This is with any problems we encounter.

In 2 Chronicles 20, valuable equipment and supplies of the army remained, which Judah took three days to collect. In the place where they faced their most powerful enemy, their greatest opposition, God named it the valley of blessing (v26)! God can bless us in the valley, if we stand fast in faith. He can turn that battle field into a blessing field, and make it work together for our good. Let’s follow the example of Jehoshaphat and the children of Judah by putting our faith in God and letting Him fight the battle!

Psalm 23 reveals that the same God who leads us to the green pastures and the still waters (v1-3), sometimes will lead us to a valley, perhaps even the darkest of all valleys (v4). We may not understand, but our trust is that if God had not meant it to work for our good then He would never have brought it to pass. There is a purpose for every valley, and it is God’s desire that we walk THROUGH it with Him, and on to hills of victory and thankfulness. Notice that David says in verse 5, that God prepares a feast for him in the presence of his enemies. This is proof that God can and wants to bless us even in difficult circumstances. In Psalm 37:23 (NLT) David records, “The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, “for the Lord holds them by the hand”. God leads us into the valley, but He is there with us, and leads us through, even holding us by the hand! He is with us in every situation, good or bad, and will not lead us there if there wasn’t a divine purpose.

In 1 Kings 20, there is war between Israel and her neighbours. God promises to intervene in verse 28 through the words of a prophet: “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”.

We can relate this to today, and recognise that we too have the tendency to feel that God is with us when things are going well. But when things are going badly, do we sometimes ask, “Is the Lord with us now?” Yes, the Lord is God of the hills in our life, but isn’t He also the God of the valleys?

We all will have hills and valleys in our life, represented by various joys and trials. God intends for us to have hills—times of joy; looking out in thankfulness for all that God has given us. Our hearts climb to the top and look out, and all of our sorrows fall away as we stand before God in gratitude. It’s no coincidence that God chose mountains to disclose His revelations, to deliver promises, and to show His glory. They represent an elevation of spirit. Some of us are at the top of the mountains, but some of us are deep down in the valleys. The valleys are places where there is no light, where vision is limited and obscured, where it’s easy to feel discouraged and alone. David, no stranger to valleys of despair says in Psalm 95:3-4 (ESV ): “For the Lord is a great God and a great King above all gods, in whose hand are the depths of the earth, the peaks of the mountains are His also”.

Notice that the deep places of the earth are in His hands, so when we are in the valleys His hands are underneath. We can’t fall through, and “none can pluck them from my Father’s hand,” said Jesus. In our primitive mind, we imagine our safety is only on the hilltop, but we must remember when we are in the valleys that we are in perfect safety, and God has us in the palm of His hand! The valleys need to be places of growth, of learning, of obedience, of submission and conforming to the mind of Christ, of being brought close to God, and receiving blessing and victory!

In Psalm 84:6 David says, “passing through the valley of Baca (weeping) they make it a well (spring); the rain also filleth the pools”. Another version reads,“the rain also covers it with blessings”. Notice the brother or sister whose strength is in the Lord passes through the valley. It’s passing, not staying; they are not there to get bogged down and stuck. The valley is transformed, from a place of weeping to a spring of life.

Where are the springs of life-giving water? Where are the streams and rivers? Are they on the mountain tops? No, they run through the low points, through the valleys! We have to go through the valleys to get from mountain top to mountain top, but we can be at peace when crossing the valleys knowing that our Lord is there with us. Isaiah describes the Son of God as “a man of sorrows” who knows what it’s like to feel afraid and alone; he’s well acquainted with the problems of the flesh and he’s there to lead us through!

So now let’s turn our mind from our own hills and valleys to the one who has brought us close to God, who has overcome sin and death and leads us to victory; our captain and deliverer, the Lord Jesus. He had his own hills, the Mount of Olives where he taught his disciples and ascended to heaven, the Sermon on the Mount, and the Mount of Transfiguration to name a few. And he had his valleys, deep, dark and dreadful, the most dreadful of which we remember every week, the death of the Son of God. We know from the record in Matthew that after the last supper Jesus and his disciples “sang a hymn then went out to the Mount of Olives” (Matt 26:30). It was there in a familiar place for Jesus and the disciples that he probably gave them the beautiful and encouraging words we find in John chapters 14–16.

But Jesus had to leave that hill of comfort and come down from the Mount of Olivet to the Garden of Gethsemane. So he left with his disciples and crossed the Kieron valley (John18:1). There at the foot of the Mount of Olives, in the Garden of Gethsemane (which means an oil press), he prayed in a valley of pain and agony mixed with tears, sweat and great drops of blood. He felt alone, afraid, and pleaded with the Father to take the trial of the cross away from him (Matt 26:39).

If only we can embrace the same honesty and submission to our God when on our knees before Him: “Father if it is possible, don’t make me go through this cup of suffering and pain, but not what I want, fulfil Your will with me, I trust in You”. We see that in his darkest hour, Jesus made it a moment of total submission to God, and in that act, won the war over the inclinations of the flesh.

The sign of his victory is evident when we look at the details of his crucifixion. When it was time for him to be offered up, they forced him to carry his cross and cruciffied him on a hill outside Jerusalem (Mark 15:40 mentions that he could be seen from afar off by Mary Magdalene and the women). We see that Jesus transformed his valley into a mountain of victory! What everyone thought was the worst scene of defeat they could ever witness, was actually the greatest victory that this world has ever known! He turned the deepest point of suffering into the highest point of submission and glory to God.

There was another valley outside Jerusalem, Gehenna, that symbolised eternal death. But it wasn’t there that Jesus ended his life; it was the hill of Calvary, of salvation, victory, and blessing for us all! But we’ve got to make our own choice. Will we end up in a valley of eternal destruction, or join with him, and climb to the hill of triumph over sin and death? We have the ultimate victory if we are willing to submit to God, and fight the battles with Jesus by our side.We will conclude with one of Jesus last words to his disciples from John 16:33 (NIV): “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world”.