Ever Been Through A Valley?
By S.J. Black
Have you ever been in a valley or a period of time when you have to really struggle in your walk with the Lord?
These are some very difficult times and we all encounter them. If you are a believer long enough you are almost guaranteed that sooner or later you will hit a valley or a time of trial. Let's face it, we have an enemy and his name is Satan. If we are saved Satan knows that he cannot steal our salvation. However, he can keep us distracted or beaten down so that we are not as effective in finding and fulfilling the Lord's calling for our lives.
I know a lot of people who are going through times of trial at the moment. Just as an example, I have friends who have lost their job; another woman I know of has a husband with a brain tumor and a very poor prognosis. These sorts of situations make life in general difficult but they can at times make keeping your walk with the Lord where it should be difficult as well. For me at least, I find it hard during these times to not catch myself mentally shaking my fist at the Lord and asking Him, " how could you allow this?" or even on occasion "How dare you!" I know… I wouldn't stand too close to me either just in case the proverbial lightning bolt is scheduled for that moment.
So why does God allow some of these things in our lives? Seems there are a number of reasons and it is hard to say without looking at these times on a case-by-case basis. Most often we do not understand "the why" behind our trials until years later when we are looking back in hindsight.
God uses trials for various reasons such as teaching us to rely on Him, building our faith, teaching us to persevere and sometimes He allows difficulty in our lives to keep us humble. Trials are often the way that God gets our attention and brings us to a place of having a mature faith in Jesus.
Sometimes we find ourselves in the wilderness because we refuse to do what God clearly tells us to do in His word. Disobedience and living in a manner contrary to how we are commanded to live is the fastest way I can think of to find ourselves in the dark bottom of a desert valley. Lets face it, something like smoking has nothing to do with our salvation but a smoker will have no one to blame but themselves when they discover they have lung cancer or other serious health issues. At those times, it is not God who put them in a time of trial it was their own refusal to take better care of God's temple -- their own bodies.
There are many verses that someone can look to for the answer as to why we have trials, below are just a few of many that give some clues as to why we face trials in our walk:
Romans 5:3 "And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance;"
James 1:3 "knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience."
1 Peter 5:10 "But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you."
2 Corinthians 4:17-18 "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal."
2 Corinthians 12:9-10 "And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
The bottom line here is that when we face trials or find ourselves in the wilderness it is because God allowed us to be there for a reason. These are the times that we learn quickly about relying on God and often this is when our faith is prone to grow by leaps and bounds. These are also the times that we have a tendency to surrender to the Lord if there is something in our lives that we know should not be there.
Recently, something that is truly awesome to realize hit me regarding our times in the wilderness or in the valleys. God never leaves us during our time spent in the wilderness; He goes with us each step of the way. Sometimes it might not seem like God is near, but this is usually because we are looking at our present circumstances instead of looking upward to God. He is always there with us even when it was our own disobedience or lack of faith that got us into the valley in the first place.
A great place to see this concept is to look at the ancient nation of Israel when they arrived at the edge of the Promised Land the first time. I am sure everyone remembers the story and we can read about this time in Numbers chapters 13 and 14.
Just for a fast review, when Israel left Egypt during the Exodus they were led first to Mount Sinai where Moses received the law and the Ten Commandments. From there they were led to the edge of the Promised Land. At this point the Lord commanded Moses to send twelve spies into the Land to explore it for forty days. Keep in mind that these Israelites had seen some major miracles performed by the Lord leading up to and during their travels from Egypt.
When the spies returned from exploring the Land, ten of the twelve gave a negative report to the people of Israel. Basically, they said the Land is good but "there are giants in the Land." This caused the people of Israel to fear and loose faith. About the time the people are talking about stoning Moses, Aaron, Joshua and Caleb the Lord became very angry and His glory appeared at the Tent of Meeting and to say the least the Lord was by no means happy with the people of Israel when He arrived. Consider what the Lord said to Moses regarding Israel at this point:
"Then the LORD said to Moses: "How long will these people reject Me? And how long will they not believe Me, with all the signs which I have performed among them? I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they."" (Numbers 14:11-12)
What the Lord had to say to Moses makes me think that Israel was more than fortunate to spend time in wilderness. If Moses had not interceded for them at this point they might have been smoked with Heavenly fire right on the spot. I often wonder why we are surprised when we find ourselves in the wilderness after not believing in the Lord regarding something He has told us? Perhaps, we should count our blessings as well that we are only in the wilderness and not six foot under.
At this point, Moses intercedes on Israel's behalf before the Lord and they are spared immediate death. The Lord is still angry with them, but decides to send them into the wilderness for forty years as opposed to doing away with all of them right on the spot. There are some additional rebellions against Moses and Aaron in later chapters of the book of Numbers where the troublemakers did not fair as well and were killed along with their entire family on the spot. However, in this case because of Israel's unfaithfulness they never truly knew the rest and blessing that the Lord had planned for them in the Holy Land but they were allowed to live.
"Except for Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun, you shall by no means enter the land which I swore I would make you dwell in. But your little ones, whom you said would be victims, I will bring in, and they shall know the land which you have despised. But as for you, your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness." (Numbers 14:30-32)
It is pretty clear to me that not only was God angry with the people, but it was their sin that dictated the fact they were to die in the wilderness and never know rest in the Holy Land. Frankly, the Lord was showing His grace and mercy to allow them even another breath.
But the truly awesome thing to note here about our Lord is that even when we are in the wilderness because of our own unfaithfulness, He walks with us every step of the way. Nehemiah tell us this very clearly in just a few verses how the Lord walked with Israel for forty years in the wilderness:
Nehemiah 9: 19 - 21 "Yet in Your manifold mercies You did not forsake them in the wilderness. The pillar of the cloud did not depart from them by day, To lead them on the road; Nor the pillar of fire by night, To show them light, And the way they should go. You also gave Your good Spirit to instruct them, And did not withhold Your manna from their mouth, And gave them water for their thirst. Forty years You sustained them in the wilderness; They lacked nothing; Their clothes did not wear out And their feet did not swell."
I find it truly amazing that even when we really mess up things, God never leaves us and He even walks each step of the way with us through the valley. How much more does God go with us and before us if we are in a valley because the trial we face is something that is not our fault but is something God has allowed for our own good and to make our faith and reliance on Him stronger?
If you are in a valley or in the wilderness right now, keep the faith! God is with you and will not leave you. Look to God and search out through prayer and study of the Word what God might be trying to teach you through your experience. It has been my experience that you had best learn the lesson God is trying to teach you or you are most likely going to experience walking through the same valley again.
We might on occasion pull away from God, but it is us that moved. God is always the same and will never desert us or pull away from us. If you turn your face towards God, He will be your ever-present help in times of trouble.
When things look bad, look up and remember what Jesus promised when He was ascending to Heaven.
"…and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age..." Matthew 28:20