God of the Valleys
The morning was running a little late. I had a lot on my mind, and I was hurrying the kids along, anticipating how we'd get our schoolwork done in time to leave for our 'outings' (Wednesdays is the weekday we have 'extra curricular' activities). I almost skipped Bible, which we always do over breakfast.
Today's reading got us to I Kings 20. It had been great when it was focused on Elijah - the miracle with the oil, the prophets of Baal, all the drama. Even his wigging-out had a high level of interest. But this chapter goes into a battle, and names of leaders, and places, and - well, as I said, I almost skipped it.
Then I got to this part.
Then the servants of the king of Syria said to him, “Their gods are gods of the hills. Therefore they were stronger than we; but if we fight against them in the plain, surely we will be stronger than they....Now the children of Israel encamped before them like two little flocks of goats, while the Syrians filled the countryside.
Then a man of God came and spoke to the king of Israel, and said, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Because the Syrians have said, “The LORD is God of the hills, but He is not God of the valleys,” therefore I will deliver all this great multitude into your hand, and you shall know that I am the LORD.’”
A God of the valleys, as well as a God of the hills.
It's so easy to be 'up' when things are going well. It's not an effort to have the right attitude when you feel like a winner, when life is good. Your God is a God of the hills, someone could say. Sure, you're happy - who wouldn't be? A husband, children, a nice place to live, a car to drive, jobs, a church, loving relationships...
Next thing you know, along comes a valley.
I kept thinking of New Orleans. How much more of a 'valley' can you get, geographically speaking, than a city that's below sea level? Or the Gulf Coast - it's not exactly mountainous. So now this catastrophe has happened - this epic thing that has altered the lives of an entire part of the country - and we need to see: is God a God of the valleys, as well?
Last night, Bill spoke to Pastor Don Elbourne on the phone. Pastor Elbourne pastors the Lakeshore Baptist Church in Lakeshore, Mississippi, and he writes about it on his blog. To me, the most stunning picture of all - even beyond the before and after shots of his church - is this one:
The church building is decimated. The church members' homes are destroyed. The entire area is a kind of 'ground zero' for Hurricane Katrina. Definitely a valley place, and a valley time...yet in the midst, a miracle?
Pastor Elbourne has written this on his blog. It came from a message he preached on the outdoor concrete slab that used to be his church:
We see God’s people, the body of Christ, serving as His hands and His feet, providing life affirming hope. We know that God will rebuild our church buildings, our houses, and our lives and we believe He will do it through the overwhelming support we receive through His people. When Jesus raised the widow of Nain’s son from the dead, the news of Christ’s resurrection power spread throughout the world (Luke 7:17). God is working the same newsworthy miracle in Lakeshore as onlookers stand in awe of what God can do through His people.
The same newsworthy miracle. A victory...
In the I Kings passage, the little bands of soldiers fought off the mighty horde of warriors, with a monumental victory. Can God do the same here? Is He still, truly, the God of the valley?
Facts are facts. They mock the notion of anything good coming out of this, of God being present in such utter loss and devastation. But faith is a fact, too. The facts of faith must be added to any life equation, any calculation of the future, or the math just plain won't come out right.
Chapel on the Hill is sending down a team of men to Lakeshore, Mississippi, on October 20th. Half a dozen men, so far, have said "I'll go." And this Sunday, Reunion Church heads back down south - this time to New Orleans, to help establish Samaritan Purse's newest disaster relief center. And my husband Bill will lead the trip to Lakeshore - and be on the trip to New Orleans as well.
Compared to the enormity of the need, these might as well be two little flocks of goats, up against an entire countryside of mighty destruction and pain. If this is about more than just being able to say "I was there" - it seems almost ludicrous. How can two small teams make a dent in such a massive place, such an overwhelming circumstance?
Because God is a God of the valley, as well as a God of the hills.
Don Elbourne added this thought to his message:
We pray that God will continue to use our suffering and pain for His glory, honor, and praise. We pray that through our loss, people will recognize Christ as their all satisfying treasure.Two teams. Two flocks of goats. The hope of victory...