As I write this, I’m celebrating my 29th birthday, enjoying donuts and a latte on my couch. Last year, I celebrated with 25 of my friends, playing games together and all munching on a giant kitchen-island-turned-charcuterie board. COVID-19 has changed so many things, and it has been a year of challenges and struggles, currently feeling pandemic burnout and an ever-present anxiety monster looming.
I’ve been reflecting on a specific phrase recently: God of the mountains and of the valleys. I heard it on the radio a few weeks ago, and since then I’ve let it sit on my mind, trying to be aware of when it pops up. A poet and artist I admire, Morgan Harper Nichols, wrote, “Remember the mountains and the valleys that brought you here,” and “You came into this season not knowing what you would face, but you made the brave decision to keep going.” My friends mentioned James 1, in which verse 12 stood out to me: “Blessed is the one who endures trials, because when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” I reflected with my boss, Kelly, about camp’s Mountain Top Moments, about how easy it is to feel God when we’re on the mountains at camp, but how do we bring that connection back down to the valleys?
Why can I feel God so fully when I’m greeted with a mountain sunrise, but am missing Him in my own kitchen? Why do I praise and thank Him only when I’m feeling grateful, ask for help only when I’m feeling low?
I’m sorry to report this isn’t a devotional with a nicely wrapped up story, a fable with a resolution and moral story. It’s more a “We’re all figuring this out as we go” type devotion. I will say I’m going to continue to let this phrase sit on my heart, aware that God is beside me every day whether I’m feeling blessed or struggling. I might not always remember to consider trials as a blessing, but I know He’s there in my valleys. I can bravely begin each season knowing any test of my faith will produce endurance, helping me lean on God more and more each day. When I’m in a valley, I don’t have to find the silver lining or list the things I’m grateful for. I’m allowed to feel my feelings, sitting in my emotion and struggle for a minute. These faith-testing valleys gives me a chance to rejoice in the Lord for being there with me. The valleys produce endurance, steadfastness, a deeply-rooted faith which cannot be shaken.
While I celebrate this birthday with a few close friends and Zoom calls to my family, I am grateful to God for the blessings I do have and also aware of how difficult certain days have been this past year. I do feel stronger in my faith for remembering that God is beside me in these valleys, and I look forward to the mountains again.
Dear Lord, help me remember your trials are making my faith stronger. Through my anxiety and challenges of this past year, I know you were there. I rejoice because you love me enough to be with me in the valleys of my life, helping me to produce a steadfastness in you. Amen.