By Whitney Hopler, Crosswalk.com
We all experience ups and downs in life, but we don’t go through them alone. God has promised to constantly be with us. We can become more aware of God’s presence by reaching out for him in all situations – both life’s hills (good circumstances) and valleys (bad circumstances). In 1 Kings 20:28, the Bible records God saying that although some people think he is “a god of the hills and not a god of the valleys” he will show them his power so that “you will know that I am the LORD.” When we know the meaning of God’s sovereignty over the hills and valleys of our lives, we can rest with peace and even joy in all circumstances.
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What Is the Meaning of "Hills and Valleys?"
The “hills and valleys” passage in 1 Kings chapter 20 describes two battles between the Arameans and the Israelites. The Arameans, who attacked Israel, mistakenly thought that the Israelite people’s ability to triumph in battle was limited to the hilly region of Samaria. Unlike the pagan gods that the Aramean people worshipped (whose power was tied to certain geographic locations) the true and living God of the Israelites was not tied to any one area of influence. The real God showed up, and when the battling armies witnessed God at work, they learned that God’s power has no limits. They saw that God can help faithful people anywhere.
Throughout the Bible, hills and valleys symbolize life’s ups and downs. Many glorious experiences happen on mountains (high hills) – from Moses receiving the 10 Commandments to Jesus appearing in his heavenly form during the Transfiguration. Much suffering happens in valleys as God’s people struggle with challenges and discouragement. However, God is still present with people in the valleys. The most famous passage about that is Psalm 23, which describes God as a shepherd who guides people with love. Psalm 23:4 proclaims: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”
Hills represent good times when we feel like celebrating. During hill situations, we’re especially aware of God’s presence with us and grateful for his blessings for us. Everyone encounters hill experiences sometimes since God showers everyone with blessings. Examples of hill situations include enjoying loving relationships, achieving goals, experiencing health and wealth, and seeing prayers answered. As inspiring as life’s hills are though, they don’t last, since circumstances constantly change.
Valleys represent bad times when we feel troubled. During valley situations, we may not sense God with us and can feel upset and discouraged by our challenging circumstances. We all walk through valleys sometimes since no one is insulated from trouble in our fallen world. However, valleys (like hills) are also temporary as circumstances change. Valley situations include relationship conflicts, health crises, failures, financial problems, and grief.
What Does the Bible Tell Us about God's Sovereignty?
Our all-powerful God rules with absolute sovereignty over every situation we encounter – the hills, the valleys, and everything in between. No matter where we find ourselves, we can be rest assured that we serve a God of hills and valleys whose power has no boundaries. “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it,” Psalm 24:1 says. God rules over every situation – from the high places to the low places. We can be confident that God’s power is not limited to certain types of circumstances.
We can also rest assured that God will walk with us through all circumstances, ready to help us along the way. Throughout life’s hills and valleys, God walks with us. “Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go…” God promises in Genesis 28:15. Although our circumstances change, God never changes. James 1:17 assures us that God “…does not change like shifting shadows” and God himself declares in Malachi 3:6 that, “…I do not change.” God can accomplish good purposes in our lives when we trust him in hills and valleys alike. Even the biblical Promised Land that God led people to included both hills and valleys: “But the land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven” (Deuteronomy 11:11). What God asked his people for during that journey was simply to trust him.
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How We Can Rest Knowing We Serve a God of the Hills and Valleys
It’s possible to rest in any situation by connecting regularly with the presence of our “hills and valleys” God. We can discover God’s presence with us in any circumstances by pursuing wonder that reveals God’s work in our lives. Experiencing glimpses of God at work inspires with awe that lifts our perspective beyond our circumstances to the God who transcends them. “You are the God who works wonders; You display Your strength among the peoples,” Psalm 77:14 proclaims. 1 Chronicles 16:11 urges us to “Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually.”
When we recognize the wonder of God’s constant work in our lives, we can respond in faith in both hill and valley circumstances. When we’re in a hill situation, we can give God thanks and praise. Knowing that it’s God who makes mountain top situations in our lives possible, we can celebrate by worshipping him. When we’re in a valley situation, we can remind ourselves of God’s promise to always be with us, and seek his presence and help. Even though we may be discouraged, we never have to despair, because we’re not alone and the One who is with us has the power to help us.
The worship song “Hills and Valleys” by Tauren Wells includes this stanza:
“On the mountains, I will bow my life
To the One who set me there
In the valley, I will lift my eyes
To the One who sees me there
When I'm standing on the mountain
I didn't get there on my own
When I'm walking through the valley
I know I am not alone!
You're God of the hills and valleys
Hills and valleys
God of the hills and valleys
And I am not alone!”
God is there for us anywhere and anytime. Our circumstances will naturally change throughout our lives. Jesus says in Matthew 5:45 that God: “… causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”
Celebrating God’s Goodness Both on the Hills and in the Valleys
On hills, we can celebrate God’s goodness. “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’” Isaiah 52:7 declares. Isaiah 55:12 describes worshiping God during a hill time of celebration: “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.”
In valleys, we can choose to see our obstacles as opportunities to grow stronger in our faith. Everyone will sometimes find themselves dealing with difficult circumstances, so we shouldn’t be surprised when we enter a valley situation. 1 Peter 4:12-13 tells us: “Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad – for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.” Romans 5:3-5 explains that God has a good purpose for every valley he allows us to walk through. “… we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.” Our valley times are temporary, yet they help us develop a hopeful faith that will serve us well forever. “For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!” – 2 Corinthians 4:17 assures us.
By intentionally looking for wonder wherever we go – in both life’s hills and valleys – we can seek God and become more aware of his presence nearby. Psalm 73:28 exclaims: “But as for me, how good it is to be near God! I have made the Sovereign LORD my shelter, and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do.” That can be our response in any type of circumstances – in hills and valleys alike – when we trust the God who is always with us.
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