When I was the Executive Pastor in Bonita, CA, I worked with an awesome Senior Pastor, Pastor Jimmy Johnson. Pastor Jimmy has since gone to be with the Lord, but I will never forget his infectious laugh and his great communication skills. And when I say I worked with Pastor Jimmy rather than for him, it's because he treated me as an equal partner.
Pastor Jimmy coined a phrase we used at the Bonita church: "Progress is made in the valley." It was a catchy way of saying things were happening at Bonita! But it was also a great way of telling people that it's in the valleys of life that real progress is made.
In Psalm 23:4, the Psalmist wrote of the "valley of the shadow of death." Sometimes we equate this passage with a funeral and the death of a loved one, but there is so much more we can gather from it. Many Christians want to live on mountain tops, but the real spiritual development in our lives takes place in the valleys of this life, places where danger lurks. But the Psalmist also reminds us that even though danger may exist in the valley, "I will fear no evil, for You are with me."
So what's so special about the valley? First, the only way to get to the next mountain top is to go through the valley. Valleys serve as bridges to the next mountain. If you find yourself on the mountain top, enjoy the view, but be reminded that the Lord is getting you ready for the next "something" in your life.
Second, the shortest way to the next mountain is through the valley. It's really the path of least resistance. To go any other way means that the Lord is not there with you. He is with you in the valley.
Third, the valley is a place of more and better food and water. It may be a difficult place, but it is where you learn and grow.
Finally, people in the valleys of this life need to see real people - people like you and me - who have problems just like they do. We are all common clay pots (2 Corinthians 4:7-18). The heroes of the faith went through the valley (Hebrews 11). Jesus went through the valley on His way to the cross, as well as on the cross itself ("My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?")
So remember: the next time you find yourself in the valley, the Lord is with you, and He is growing you. Progress really is made in the valley!