For every mountaintop experience we encounter there is a valley to cross following close behind on its heels. These valleys are the lows after the highs of a life-changing encounter with God. All of us love those mystical moments in the presence of God breathing the thin air of high altitude perched victoriously on the edge of the precipice staring at the next mountain to be climbed. But between this peak and the next one is a valley—a long distance of desert land. Most of us don’t want to think about the valleys. We long for the mountaintops. Yet… these valleys enhance those mountaintop experiences even if we refuse to accept this reality.

I’m not a math major, but if I were putting a percentage of time spent on mountaintops versus valleys, the valleys would win hands down. I can only speak for myself, but 99% of my time is spent in the valley. The valleys, not the mountain-tops, are where we learn to walk with God through faith. Faith grows in much the same way as a muscle. In exercise, a muscle is tested, broken down and strengthened. Like that muscle, faith must be tested to gain potency. There in that scrub land filled with all kinds of dangers and traps, we gain the practical experience of surviving and thriving as our faith is pushed to its limits and beyond.

Valleys seem overwhelming. The terrain is unwelcoming and dangerous. Every step is fraught with uncertainty. But as rough as the landscape is, there is always a path through it marked out by God. To find the path we must concentrate on the destination while at the same time implementing the lessons we’ve learned in the past. Every past lesson learned has an instant in the future where its experience will either assist or assassinate you. A word of warning! Don’t forget the lessons you’ve learned crossing the countless valleys that brought you to this one. Every one of them has a purpose.

Let’s be honest, the first few miles of crossing a valley can be depressing and discouraging. After all, we’ve just finished a descent from a moment where our life was radically transformed. The air was fresh, the scenery was breathtaking, and the company—well, there are no words to describe what being that close to God is like. Yet, the valley looms large before us. One of the things that I‘ve learned that may help you overcome that discouragement and depression is to learn to enjoy the journey as you make your trek to your next destination.

Most of us want to travel on the interstate system. We can drive faster and get to our destination quicker, but we miss much of the scenery and beauty of the land. We miss God! That’s right! God is just as present in the valley as he is on the mountaintop. With one exception, we have to slow down to find him—we have to “faith” him out. He’s there, but his presence is manifest in different ways—the smile of a child, the eyes of a beggar, the thank-you a down-and-outer, or the simple recognition that a temptation has come and gone and we were not caught in its trap. The valley is where we learn to appreciate the small things that seem to compound into huge things on the mountaintop. The valley is where our vision is developed so that when we actually reach the peak of that mountain we will recognize God.

Don’t look past the valley you are in. Those hours in the valley prepare us for those fleeting moments on the mountaintop. Don’t waste them or your next mountaintop will look just like another valley.