The following is an excerpt from my book Shadows in My Valley Published in November 2018. The theme of the book is a valley experience I went through many years ago that made an indelible impression on my life and has contributed to who and what I am today. Each chapter begins with a poem written during that time of despair and in the process of coming out of that valley. Further details are added as well as excerpts from the prayer journal I kept at that time. Scripture verses bring it in line with the word of God.
A PRAYER FROM THE VALLEY
Lord, it’s so dark all around me;
I can’t see the light of day.
Jesus, help me to understand now
All the things that have come my way.
I just don’t feel Your presence;
I can’t hear Your guiding voice;
My world seems ready to crumble;
Still, I make Your will my choice.
Your Word says You’ll never leave me,
Nor forsake the child You love.
Give me faith, my heavenly Father,
To keep on looking above.
The darkest hour, they tell me,
Is always before the dawn.
Let the sun now rise upon me,
Fill my heart with heavenly song.
May I feel the warmth of Your sunshine
As brighter and brighter it glows;
Lift my spirit to heavenly places
Where the wind of Your Spirit blows.
Let Your love fall on me like a mantle,
Dispelling the shadows and fear,
And to Your sweet, holy presence
Let me now and forever draw near.
A Prayer from the Valley describes exactly the feelings I struggled with as I groped my way through spiritual darkness. The wonderful thing about going through these times and growing in the Lord is that we are not nearly so devastated when the next trial comes. Today I would not allow these feelings to overwhelm me. That is not to say I will never have to battle with them any more, but I will gain the victory much more quickly. I have learned to lean more on the Lord. I still experience times of dryness, of weariness, of being overwhelmed with life, of wondering, “Where do I go from here, Lord?” But I no longer feel that God has left me. I know that I know that He is with me whether I feel His presence or not.
Of course, I would much rather feel Him close to me, to feel the touch of His hand on me in blessing. But I am now able to continue on in faith and the knowledge that even when I cannot sense God’s presence, the Lord has not abandoned me to my own meager resources. I can trust Him much more fully with my life. Often I do not understand what He is doing. At times I come to a standstill because I cannot understand what He wants me to do. These are times I must learn to discipline myself to “wait patiently for the Lord” (see Psalm 40:1). In the margin of the New American Standard Bible this word ‘patiently’ is explained as ‘intently’. We must wait with purpose and concentrate on hearing God’s voice. If we are not absorbed totally in listening, we may miss His direction and then we will continue to grope our way through life.
I had not then learned to listen carefully. I did not know how to rest in the Lord. Jesus was real to me, but His ways were not always familiar. My faith existed only as a little mustard seed, unable to carry me through the valley at that time. I needed the Lord to carry me. But He did much more than carry me through. He taught me to walk in His faith. Jesus never leaves us to ourselves unless we turn our backs on Him. (Even then He waits in the background.) He was there all along. I just did not have the keen perception to see Him. My Father improved my spiritual awareness through that valley, and continues to do so every day of my life since as I yield myself to Him. No longer do I fear the dark times, for Jesus is the Eternal Light that ever shines into my life. I no longer dread the valley, for it is a beautiful place of resting, watering, learning and growth. But it has taken a great deal of time to bring me to this place. Naturally, I would rather feel the exhilaration of the mountaintop. I would choose to feel the presence of God all the time. But He allows us to pass through the desert and valley places so that we all the more appreciate the blessedness and closeness of His manifest presence in our lives.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me. Psalm 23:4
Passing through the valley of Baca they make it a spring.
From my Journal:
Father, I need Your help so desperately. I feel entirely helpless. Please reveal to my spirit what I must do to be released from this prison. Peter could not get out of prison until the angel came and loosed the chains that bound him and told him step by step what to do to get out of his prison cell and be free. I don’t want just enough strength to endure, Father. I want enough strength to be free, to rejoice with my spirit for evermore. Grant me a speedy deliverance, Father, because of Your love and mercy. Forgive me for feeling the way I do. Lord, I’m sorry that just when I seem to be making some headway through the valley that I end up falling again. It’s like trying to climb out of a deep pit with perpendicular walls. I get so far, lose my footing and tumble back to the bottom again. Forgive me for my failure, Father. Forgive me for my weakness. Forgive me for not being able to grasp firmly the rope You are throwing me to lift me out of the pit. Change me, Father. Give me the strength to take the rope and hold on as You pull me out. And when I get to the top, to the surface, help me not to look back, lose my balance and fall back in. Help me to look straight ahead at You and to follow You. Thank You for hearing. Thank You for understanding. Thank You for caring. Thank You, Father, for answering the cry of my heart. I love You, Lord.
In reading this excerpt from my prayer journal, you may be able to feel the despair that I felt at that time. I was desperate for release, desperate for God. I just did not know how to find Him. As I prayed this way from day to day, I cried ‘buckets’ of tears. In some places it was hard to decipher the writing where the pages had been watered with and the words faded by them. I cried so much that I told friends I had shed enough tears to fill a bathtub. Rather exaggerated, no doubt, but that is what it felt like. Yet tears do cleanse and heal, as long as they are not tears of self-pity or despair. As you can see, I did believe that God cared, but I simply could not put that knowledge to profitable use to help me out of that deep hole. I was overwhelmed with the extent of emotion I had never before realized was in me. I allowed the enemy to keep on attacking because I did not know I had the tools and the power to send him packing. Actually, I am not certain that I even realized that it was the enemy attacking me.
Today, I believe that I went through this turmoil in order to understand the trials of others, and to help and encourage them—and you—to push through to victory. If my experience, devastating as it was, can benefit even one other person, it was worth it all. We have the power of God resident within us. We can fight Satan and run him off. We are not his property, and he has no rights over us unless we have given them to him by continuing in sin or simply by default because we did nothing. James tells us that if we only “submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (see James 4:7). If you can grasp this truth and run with it, you will exit the valley much more quickly than I did. If I had been given the counsel I needed, I, too, would not have spent as much time wallowing in the mire of self-pity. I might have won the victory much sooner. Though I would never want to go through another experience like it, I do not regret the things the Lord taught me in the midst of it. As the old chorus says, “It will be worth it all, when we see Jesus”.
The following poem came in response to A Prayer from the Valley. There was comfort in it. There was hope. There was life. But still, my mood continued on a roller-coaster ride. Still I could not walk in the truth the Lord was showing me. I was encouraged, but not yet delivered. That would not come until later, after many more lessons. The mountaintop still loomed in the future, high up in the clouds, but the promise was in the present. As the valley appeared before me unexpectedly, so victory came when I did not anticipate it. Look up, and see what the Lord Jesus Christ will do for you.
See Acts 12:1-11