where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights,
hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold thy glory.
What do you think it was like for Nebuchadnezzar when God put him "out to pasture" for a while? God had said He would rip the kingdom away from him and make him suffer until he learned a thing or two (Daniel 4:32). And to his credit, he did learn. Sent by God into a "valley," he saw things that are hard to see on a "mountaintop."
Consider three valley-experiences that can clarify our own vision.
Difficulty. We like easy things, but the fact is, life is full of hard ones. When we pass through circumstances that qualify as true "hardships," our perspective is nearly always adjusted and improved.
Sorrow. Grief is the loss of something you dearly wanted not to lose. It is one of life's worst pains. Yet we learn a good deal more in the dark depths of loss than we do on the sunny heights of having all we want.
Sin. When we have sinned, godly sorrow is the right response. Nothing in life is more painful, I can tell you. But it is in this valley that humiliation becomes humility -- and grace produces gratitude.
While never being the author of anything sinful, God is certainly the One who decides when it would be beneficial for us to suffer and when it would be better to shield us. Even with Job, whom God allowed Satan to test, God took responsibility for Job's losses (Job 2:3). And think about David. He took full blame for the sin he committed with Bathsheba, but he also knew where the anguish came from that he experienced following that sin. He begged God, "Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice" (Psalms 51:8).
The writer of Hebrews spoke frankly. "It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? . . . For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it" (12:7-11).
In the wilderness, God fed Israel with "manna." While it kept them from starving, it was not enough to remove the hardship of their ordeal. Later, Moses explained God's decision: "He humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna . . . that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord" (Deuteronomy 8:3).
So here is the truth we must accept and be thankful for: it is in the "valley" that our vision is able to see some things most clearly. And these truths are often the very ones we need to see the most urgently.