“[T]he land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys ….” Deuteronomy 11:11 (NIV)
If you’ve done any strength training, you’ve learned the principle of oppositional training. To really strengthen any muscle group, you have to strengthen the opposing muscle group. If you want to strengthen your biceps, for example, you need to also strengthen your triceps. If you want to grow your quadriceps, you also need to grow your hamstrings. To train effectively, you have to train in opposition.
Interestingly, the rest of life is like that too. We cannot have pleasure, for example, without pain (otherwise it would all seem the same and all feel neutral). We cannot have highs without lows, or as the writer of Ecclesiastes so adeptly put it, we cannot have laughter without tears or dancing without mourning (see Ecc. 3:4). It is the order that God created. We cannot achieve great heights without going through great valleys.
Problems arise, of course, when we ignore the principles of oppositional training. When we want large biceps, for example, but don’t like the triceps exercises … so we don’t do them much. Not only do we become out of balance, but we can’t achieve the results we really desire when we deny the way in which God made things.
Of course, I see myself in this paradox frequently. I would much prefer to avoid great pain, sadness, loss or mourning. I’d much prefer avoid, deny, repress or run away from that side of life. But I am learning that even God’s Promised Land had mountains and valleys … and that in His economy, I cannot avoid one without losing the other.
So I am learning afresh the principle of oppositional training. And it’s hard. It’s hard to sit in the hard places and remain present and not to rush through or ignore it. It’s hard. Really hard sometimes. But I want the other side. I endure the valley because I want the mountain-top. And I strive to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus, my example … who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross. (Hebrews 12:2b).