From the Heart: The Kerith Ravine

By B.J. Funk

“I shudder to think of what I’d been if I had not gone to prison,” the late Chuck Colson said in 1993. “Lying on the rotten floor of a cell, you know it is not prosperity or pleasure that is important, but the maturing of the soul.” Colson later created Prison Fellowship Ministry and called going to prison a “great blessing.” That rotten cell floor had been Colson’s Kerith Ravine.

The prophet Elijah was told by God to go to the Kerith Ravine, and there he would be fed in the morning and at night by ravens bringing him food. A cool brook would provide drinking water while all of the rest of the land faced a drought. Because Ahab, the king of Israel, did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him, Elijah told him that there would be no rain for several years.

After Elijah delivered his message, the word of the Lord came to Elijah. He was to turn east and hide in the Kerith Ravine. There, safe from others, the Lord would see to it that his faithful prophet would receive nourishment.

God brings all of us to those solitude times in the Kerith Ravine. A Streams in the Desert devotional reads, “We should not be surprised if God occasionally says to us, ‘Dear Child, you have had enough of this hurried pace, excitement and publicity. Now, I want you to go and hide yourself – hide in the Kerith Ravine of sickness, the Kerith Ravine of sorrow, or some place of total solitude, from which the crowds have turned away.’ And happy is the person who can reply to the Lord, ‘Your will is also mine. Therefore I run to hide myself in You.’”

Corrie Ten Boom faced her Kerith Ravine in a Nazi Germany prison camp during World War Two.

Through the humiliation of having to stand naked before the prison guards to the degradation of sleeping in beds filled with fleas, Corrie found living water to drink. It was as if ravens brought her the bread of Life from the Bible she smuggled inside the gates. She emerged from her Kerith Ravine a stronger woman than she would have been had solitude and difficulty not been a part of her life.

From December 1777 until June 1778, the Continental Army, under the leadership of General George Washington,camped at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. They had a bitter struggle against the elements and low morale. “An army of skeletons appeared before our eyes, naked, starved, sick and discouraged,” wrote New York’s Governor Morris.

Hungry, cold, ragged, and cramped in December 1777, they emerged disciplined, self-confident, and dignified just six months later. Valley Forge was where a new professional American army was born. Washington was a man of prayer. He and his men found their strength in their Kerith Ravine.

In the later years of her life, author Catherine Marshall experienced what she described as “a dark night of the soul” after her first grandchild’s death. She struggled and rebelled. She did not understand why this child had to die. Finally, after months of depression, she opened her eyes to a new thought:

She did not understand, but she wanted God more than she wanted understanding. Mrs. Marshall’s Kerith Ravine catapulted her into rivers of fresh writings that have inspired many.

Receiving spiritual power is impossible unless we hide from others and ourselves in a secluded place where we may tune into the power of God. Before Jesus went to his death, he went into the Garden of Gethsemane to pray alone. There, he hid himself in his own Ravine experience. In that place, his heart breaking and yet rejoicing for the victory that would soon come, He drank from the brook that flows from the throne of God, and He ate food from the heart of God.

Periods of darkness have been wisely designed by a loving God, when perhaps a season of sunshine would have made us like a parched land. Our Lord knows best. When told, “It’s a gray day,” an old Scottish cobbler replied, “Yes, but didn’t ya see the patch of blue?”

Are you in a Kerith Ravine right now? Be encouraged. God has you there for a reason. Look up, search for the patch of blue, and watch for the raven.