The question-asker and imaginer in me often wants to know the things that the Bible doesn’t tell us. I want to know how people felt, not just what they did. I want to know what Hannah experienced that last night before she took Samuel to the tabernacle to serve the Lord there– her little boy, her holy vow. I want to know what Noah’s wife thought when he told her he was going to build an ark, and whether his daughters-in-law were okay with spending a whole lot of time shut up in a boat with a bunch of animals.
As I walk this journey God has called me on, I want to know about the spaces in between the mountaintops. I want to know about the valleys.
I’ve been transcribing Genesis, and I’ve reached the story of Abram who would become Abraham. God called Abram, and he obeyed and went to Canaan– mountaintop followed by obedience. But then there was a famine– valley– and Abram went to Egypt and convinced Sarai to lie and generally showed his lack of faith in God’s ability to protect Him– disobedience. This cycle of obedience following mountaintop experiences, with valleys leading to disobedience, is repeated over and over in Abraham’s life. God makes all these amazing promises to Abraham, but then waits for a long time to fulfill them. And Abraham fails in the waiting.
It is not until Mount Moriah that we see obedience in the valley. Finally, it seems, Abraham has learned to obey when the way seems entirely impossible. God commands Abraham to sacrifice his son– that promised child, in which all of God’s promises lay, in which all of Abraham’s hopes were placed. I can’t imagine a deeper valley than the one that Abraham walked through the night before he obediently began his journey to the altar.
I wish Genesis described it. Somehow in the deep darkness of that valley, Abraham found a new kind of faith, and he found strength to take servants and fire and wood and son and knife to the mountain of God.
We know the end of the story, but Abraham didn’t. We just know he had faith. He trusted God and walked in obedience, and we can argue what God’s purpose was in all this, but in the end a good thing was accomplished in Abraham’s life, because Abraham saw the ram provided and he heard the voice of God.
Sometimes I picture spiritual warfare as a dramatic scene at the top of some mountain somewhere– and I, this great warrior, brandishing my sword above my head with strength and courage. I picture Elijah and the prophets of Baal– this glorious, raw display of faith and courage and the power of God. And maybe sometimes it’s like that. But more often than not, the real battles are fought in the valleys, in the darkness, on our knees. The real battles are fought in the places where no one sees or knows. They are not battles to gain an acre of ground, but battles to gain a foothold. They are not battles that end with glory and recognition, but that end with the ability to stand again, to take another step, to see the face of Christ a little more clearly.
Perhaps the real battle wasn’t David with the slingshot and the Giant; perhaps it happened much earlier, in some lonely valley, with a bear and a lion. Perhaps the real battle wasn’t Gideon and the soldiers and the pots and the trumpets; perhaps it was Gideon creeping out in the night to destroy the altar of Baal.
Today I am fighting a battle– a valley-battle against principalities and powers and the rulers of the darkness of this age. I am fighting against the old self and the lying voices. If I didn’t write it here, you wouldn’t ever know. Maybe you are fighting a battle too. Maybe you’re deep in a valley, barely holding on. And maybe nobody knows, because they’re all looking for Peter at Pentecost battles instead of Peter on the night after Jesus died battles.
Yesterday I shared my heart and I have been so overwhelmed by the kind response of my readers. Friends, we were not meant to fight these battles on our own. We do not have to hide in shame when we are under attack, when we are weak and vulnerable and afraid. We need one another, and as the Body of Christ we are created to support one another in weakness and during those valley-battle times.
We draw new strength from the encouraging words of our fellow soldiers. When we share our battles and our fears and our broken places, we give others the chance to encourage us, to come alongside us, to share their experiences, to fight on their knees with us, and to see the glory of the grace of God made perfect in our weaknesses.
I do not fight alone. And you shouldn’t either.
In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.