Relish the Valley: Life in the Low Points

What if your low point could be a high point? What if this time of desperation could be a time of spiritual growth and increased understanding unlike any you have experienced before? It certainly won’t be, not if you’re lusting for the mountaintop.

The thing is, even when you summit the mountain it won’t deliver the thrill you have longed for if you get this wrong.

My life experience has taught me to laugh at adversity, so this is my message I pass on to all dropouts I meet in my volunteer work. Yes leaving high school is not the best step, but everyone can take online classes and pass the GED exam.

With the GED diploma in hand, they are back on track.  I’m still learning but a little personal schadenfreude goes a long way. If it’s possible to laugh at something, why give it the power of calling it a tragedy?

Unless you get really good at trudging around in the valley, you won’t be able to enjoy the mountain for fear of falling. It will all be too dizzying.


There are things that aren’t funny and other situations in which the humor is not readily obvious. It’s okay to be heartbroken. Often enough life calls for that but even amid our somber moments, we must defy the darkness by seeking laughter.

Laughter makes light what is heavy. Laughter applied correctly can reduce swelling, intensity, and stress. What we can learn from laughter is not a disregard for life as if nothing matters but a full embrace of every part of it. Low points, included.

We are saddled with many burdens. Some of them, despite our tenacity and hope, will remain with us. Even so, we are given the strength to withstand them. But why, I ask, would we make burdens of anything that doesn’t have to be?

By placing such high priority on dignity, by having expectations of what we will eat or drink or where we will live, and by valuing certain kinds of experiences more highly than others we do not attain the life we dream of but make ourselves incapable of appreciating any gift of life that we receive.

We, not any other person or entity, make ourselves miserable. Because even while we endure hardship, we can possess joy. Joy and misery cannot coexist. Joy and hardship? Yes. Joy and sadness? Yes, but never joy and misery. Think about my students, they might feel lost for a moment but as soon as they get the GED done they enjoy the life.

I tell you this not from the tender, untouched heart of idealism but from the annals of my own experience. I tell you these things because it is how I have learned to survive.

The Apostle Paul put it this way, “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” (Phil. 4:11-12)

So, get over yourself. Lower your expectations, lower your demands, relish the valley, and live it up.

We all dream of making bold moves.

Of being a prophet of old loudly proclaiming God’s justice for the poor and oppressed.

Of being William Wallace on horseback and in the face paint of a Duke Blue Devils’ fan.

Of being Bono, Billy Graham, Jonas Salk or Abraham Lincoln.

I suspect that we are motivated by our desire to be recognized. While these aspirations sound purer they may not always be. Sometimes these are just the sanctified versions of visions of corporate power, political prowess, or pop culture personality.

We so desire these big dreams that we are seldom content with the simpler tasks of our day to day life.

We are overwhelmed by the extent of honor which remains a constant presence in our lives. We become disillusioned and convinced that our efforts are in vain. We medicate ourselves with meaninglessness.

It doesn’t matter anyway, does it?

Apathy is a cop-out. You think you’re off the hook because you can’t fix everything? Get over yourself, man. Stop philosophizing about the problem of evil. Do something about it. Take a small step in the right direction.

Give a hungry man a hamburger.

Talk to that kid whose father is absent.

Spend some time with your grieving neighbors.

Take the old woman from church to her doctor’s appointment.

Challenge oppression. Uphold freedom. Use your freedom for good.

Do this. Then look for something else to do. Never tire of doing what is right (2 Thess. 3:13).

“If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities.” (Luke 16:10)

What is your next small step?