Sunday, February 21, 2010

Do We Want Life Without Valleys?

By Caryn Rivadeneira

I live 16 miles west of Chicago. To find anything even remotely close to a “valley,” I need to head another 20 or so miles west toward the Fox River, to an area known as the Fox Valley. That we call this a valley would make anyone from a mountainous region laugh out loud. Because the Fox Valley essentially marks a spot where flat (former) prairie dips toward the mighty Fox and then immediately rises on the other side.

It is lovely. And, after driving through miles and miles of the flat doldrums of suburban strip malls (or farm land—depending on which direction you’re coming from), it’s a welcome scene. One that beckons a good look around and a deep-breathed, “Ah, beautiful.” But still, a real valley it ain’t.

As long as you weren’t being swept away by the river itself, if you were in the Fox Valley, you’d be fine. You’d never worry about getting up or getting out. You wouldn’t panic about being stuck there, too worried to face a climb up and over. If you wanted to get out of the valley, you’d simply walk up a slight hill. You might be a tad winded (maybe) when you got to the “summit,” but then you’d just get on with your life. As if nothing happened at all.

This is how I know the Fox Valley is different from other valleys in more than geography alone. When the Psalmist wrote, “Even when I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil” (Ps. 23:4), he knew a different valley. When he lifted his eyes to the mountains, wondering where his help came from (Ps. 121:1), he knew a different valley. And when he declared, “My help comes from the Lord,” that was a different kind of valley.

While I live hundreds of miles from any “real” valley, I know these valleys well. I’m guessing no matter where you live, you do too. These are the valleys we find ourselves in when life curves sharp and fast and we lose our footings, tumble down hillsides, into a sort of life-abyss. These are the valleys when our hurt and fear press down so hard that we can hardly lift our heads to seek help from the hills around us. These are the valleys where the darkness lingers, where the shadows creep and seep into our souls.

These are the valleys in which treachery is the only way out. In which escape means a steep, jagged climb—when we have no strength. In which rescue means facing dangers—when we have no courage. In which salvation means trusting God—when we feel forsaken. These are the valleys no one wants to be in.

And yet, what would our lives look like if we never faced that treachery, that rough climb or that salvation? Where would we be as women? As leaders? As children of God? Do we really want our lives to be without valleys—or with only Fox Valleys—where we never face hardship or have to search hilltops for God’s rescue? Do we want our lives to never be shaken or changed?

I don’t think so. A simple read through the Psalms will show you that the valleys are what shaped David’s life as a leader and a beloved child of God. A wise example for all leaders to follow.

Caryn Rivadeneira, author of Mama’s Got a Fake I.D. [link:], is a writer and speaker. Visit her at


  1. Thank you for your encouraging words. I've been in some of those deep valleys that you so vividly described, and yet God, in His timing, brought me up to the green pastures. He used that valley time to do what you said -- He has taught, shaped, prepared, refined. Bless Him for that! Thank you for sharing your experience and hope!

    Linda Thomas

  2. Caryn, thanks for the memories of Fox Valley. (I used to work in Aurora and St. Charles, so I know, literally, the picture created here.)

    When Jesus tells us in this world, we'll have trouble, no one wants to take that to heart. But, He DID say it, and we definitely have those times. But, we need to take ownership of what He said after that--that HE has overcome the world. Even when we pass through the darkest, deepest valleys, we can still know His presence. And we progress from that point, when we follow.

    Studying with Beth Moore (video) this week.... She had to face a valley of sorts and prayed, "I don't have a file for that, God," meaning she didn't have an experience to draw from to help her out. God answered her, "Child, I have a file! I have a file!"

    We may truly be groping for stability in a dark place, but there is nothing our Lord hasn't experienced, and our God who works everything for the good for those who love Him, will see us through.