The Valley of Achor
“You were praying, weren’t you?”
I looked up from my battle stance, my hand still clinging to my mom’s leg. Sweating and scared, I removed my hand. The worst had passed, for now. I nodded my head “yes” in response to her question. “How did you know?” I asked. She smiled weakly, her eyes closed and weary. “I could feel it. You were fighting for me.”
My dad and I were sitting with my mom at her hospital bed, waiting for her to endure her very last chemotherapy treatment. It was supposed to be a day of celebration, but the three of us looked worn and battle weary. Life had attempted to steal all of who we were through unexpected circumstances. The end of the battle was near, but it wouldn’t be without a fight. A nurse had come to her side to inject her with medications so her body would be prepared to receive the toxins that were about to fight the cancer she had been diagnosed with 8 months earlier. My battle stance of prayer was in response to a very bad reaction she was having to the medications. She started to get dizzy and extremely nauseous, losing all sense of stability. She was so dizzy that she had reached out, asking me to grab a hold of her so she could feel some sense of being grounded. She was looking for an anchor. I knew at that point there was a huge possibility that she was about to either get very sick or possibly pass out. Ridden with fear, I grabbed hold of her, took up my sword and began to pray. I was determined to win this for her. Little did she know, that would be the first time in almost a year that I had spoken to the Lord.
Anger. That is the feeling I had been carrying around for almost a year – from my mom’s cancer diagnosis, up until her last chemotherapy treatment. I couldn’t comprehend why God would allow this devastation to reach our family, especially my mother. I felt so strongly that she was undeserving of the cards that had been handed to her. She loves the Lord more than anyone I know, and is full of quiet strength and grace. With a cancer diagnosis, it doesn’t just affect the one who has been diagnosed. It had touched our entire family and closest friends. I was angry watching my mom struggle – becoming weak and vulnerable, and someone I did not recognize. I was angry watching my father – fierce protector of our family, larger than life – become human before my very eyes. I was angry knowing that my little brother was watching this whole thing unfold – eyes wide, and it wasn’t something I could protect him from. I was angry at God. I was walking through my own personal Valley of Achor.
The Valley of Achor is the name of a valley in the vicinity of Jericho and it simply translates to “Valley of Trouble.” Through my anger at the Lord, I had begun to turn away and wanted to take back total control. I could feel my hands tightening around my chains of control, and I wasn’t about to give it back to someone who wasn’t giving me what I wanted. I wanted healing for my mom. I wanted restoration for my family. But I wanted it my way and in my timing. Turning away from the Lord landed me in this Valley of Achor. I was becoming someone I was all too familiar with: my old, insecure, controlling self. I had taken a step out of the light and without even realizing it, I was slipping my chains back on.
Friend, have you ever had that feeling? That gut wrenching, floor disappearing beneath you feeling? All you want to do is find something to hold onto; an anchor to keep you grounded. This is what I was trying to do, but instead of trusting and grasping for the Lord to be that Anchor, I turned to a false anchor. The false anchor of “control”. Does this story sound familiar?
I want to take us on a journey to the book of Hosea where we find God calling a man named Hosea to do something radical. In Hosea chapter 1, we immediately see God commanding Hosea to marry a “promiscuous” woman; a prostitute. I don’t know about you, friend, but if I had been Hosea, I would’ve looked at the Lord and gone “What?! Are you sure about this God?”.
But Hosea, in his faithfulness, obeys and runs after this promiscuous woman named Gomer and marries her out of obedience. Now for those of us who have heard this story, we already know that Gomer did not stay faithful to Hosea in their marriage. Time and time again, she breaks her covenant promise of marriage to Hosea and tries to find happiness in other men and material things.
This is what I see in this story: a very hurt woman who has forgotten who she is and who she belongs to. Instead of trusting Hosea’s love for her, Gomer turns and runs backwards in fear, trying to take back control of her life.
Hosea chapter 2, verse 5 says,
“…She said, ‘I will go after my lovers
who give me my food and my water,
my wool and my linen, my olive and my drink.’ ”
Gomer is trying desperately to run back to her false identity. She is using her lovers and these material things to define her. They are her false sense of security.
In verses 6 & 7 the Lord says,
“Therefore I will block her path with thorn bushes;
I will wall her in so that she cannot find her way.
She will chase after her lovers but not catch them;
she will look for them but not find them.
Then she will say,
‘I will go back to my husband as at first,
for then I was better off than now.’ “
The Lord is showing Gomer that no matter how far she runs or where she runs to, it’s not going to satisfy her. The journey may seem appealing, but the end is only going to leave her feeling empty and wanting more.
Let’s take a look at verses 14 & 15,
“Therefore I am going to allure her;
I will lead her into the wilderness
and speak tenderly to her.
There I will give her back her vineyards,
and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.”
Do you see what God is doing here, friend? God purposefully leads Gomer into the wilderness, a place of trouble, to show her how desperately she needs Him. He strips Gomer of everything she uses to find her identity in: comfort, control, security – and gives her back her “vineyards”, her true identity. An identity secure in Him; one of total surrender.
Do you see His faithfulness written all over this love story? God commands Hosea to chase desperately after a woman who has forgotten who she is and who she belongs to. Every time Gomer would run, Hosea would run faster – determined to catch her in his love. Every time Gomer would forget who she was, Hosea was there to give her back her true identity. Hosea ran after a woman that society had deemed “unworthy and forgotten”. Why? Because in his eyes, she was more than worthy, and he couldn’t wait to show her this truth.
The reality is Gomer hadn’t done anything to deserve this type of unconditional, radical love. In the eyes of man, she deserved to be cast aside because of the choices she had made. Gomer decided to turn and run away, so why should anyone chase after her?
This is a beautiful picture of God’s love for us, beloved. Each time we choose not to trust Him, He is always there, waiting to gently remind us of how trustworthy He is. Every time we turn from Him, He is always there waiting with arms open wide to welcome us back. Each time we break our covenant with Him, He never breaks His covenant with us. It doesn’t matter what we’ve done or where we are, His grace and love extends to the darkest parts of who we are. Just as the Lord led Gomer into the wilderness to reveal her heart – He takes a candle to our hearts, illuminates our hurts and false anchors, that in His love He wants to bring healing to. It isn’t easy and it’s going to hurt, but I promise you it is worth it.
I want to remind you today, friend, that it’s okay to be angry and it’s okay if you have forgotten God’s goodness. If you are walking through your own personal Valley of Achor, rest assured you are not alone. His grace covers you. His love is fighting for you – waiting patiently to gently remind you of who you are and who you belong to. If you can’t pick up your sword today, let Him carry it for you. I promise you this – He is making your Valley of Achor a door of hope.