Christianity 201

September 19, 2017

Surviving a Valley Experience

by Russell Young

Every believer will be faced with a valley experience at some point. That is, something will come into his or her life that seems devastating and destructive. It might be the loss of a loved one, financial damage, health issues, the pain of a destroyed relationship, the hurt of perceived betrayal, etc. For those living in Florida or Texas, or those suffering through the destructive earthquake of southern Mexico the valley experience is very evident.  Bad things happen and those engulfed in them must find a way through if they are to once more find hope on the other side.

When bad things happen, a person needs to clearly understand what victory looks like to him or her since without it only defeat remains. Their appreciation of victory provides objectivity and the goal that offers hope and recovery. It provides direction for obtaining the mountaintop and the ability to confidently proceed with life.

Although overcoming disaster may look different and feel different for each person, it is singular and consistent for all believers.  Victory while in this life is the attainment of God’s eternal kingdom. Jesus taught, “The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (Jn 12:25 NIV) This life and the glories of this world are not to be valued. There are lessons to be learned from all “misfortunes.” For believers, the lesson may be a reminder to rely on God and to live according to his priorities and purposes. The “consistent and singular” need of the Christ follower is to focus and remain focused on him.

Paul put difficulties into an eternal perspective. “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Cor 4:17─18, Italics added.)

Victory must not be accepted as triumph over a momentary event but seen from an eternal perspective with the finding a place in God’s kingdom. There is no doubt that loss brings hurt and causes pain, even great pain and help and compassion needs to be shown the suffering. No one enjoys such experiences but it is through them that faith is tested and proven.  “…you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Pet 1:6─7 NIV) The faith of all will be tested. God made the Israelites wander for forty years to test their hearts (Deut 8:2), and Christ was tested in the desert for forty days. Those who confess Christ should not accept that they will be provided a life free of tribulation, turmoil, and pain. Trials are promised to all believers.

Whether or not release can be found from the effects of the devastations of life depends entirely on a person’s perspective. Those who do not have an eternal hope will feel great loss; those who know the Lord can find their way up to the mountaintop by fixing their sight on the only one who can meet their eternal need. They can look past their circumstance and onward to a better hope. Valleys are necessary for spiritual growth. They test our mettle and either engender and prove faith or reveal its weakness. Contrary to the teaching of many, the believer must be made into an “offering acceptable to God” (Rom 15:16 NIV) and “conformed to the likeness of his Son.” (Rom 8:29 NIV) When the believer’s perspective becomes focused on the issues and pleasures of this life, it must be adjusted. That is not to say that all people who are walking in the valley need an adjustment.  Sometimes the valley experience becomes ours due to proximity of those around us…family members, neighbors, communities, etc. Few live in isolation.

Concerning God’s intercession Paul wrote, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28 NIV) This understanding can provide great encouragement for those who are suffering. Regardless of the believer’s circumstance he or she can accept that through humility and obedience all will be well.

Here and now issues must not be permitted to cast the Lord aside. Things arise that require immediate effort and resources. Although the tendency might be for the troubled one to address the problem through his or her own resources without the Lord’s leading a wrong path might be taken and his purpose thwarted. In 2 Corinthians 11:23─27 Paul has listed many of his trials; however, he never gave in to defeat. He did not lose himself in their midst but set his sight on the bigger picture.

Whatever the struggles of life seem to be, they are temporal and must be seen as temporal. As bad as they are if the Lord leads they will eventually pass allowing the sun to shine once again and peace to be restored. The believer is to keep his or her eye set on Christ and on honoring him. That is faith in practice. He must be honored even in the midst of trials. Earthly possessions, health, and relationships may be lost never to be regained; but God is in control and will always remain sovereign over all things.

Paul suffered through despair but found assurance of victory through Christ.  “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us…” (2 Cor 1: 8-10 NIV)  Surviving a valley experience requires eyes set on God and a heart set on honoring him.

September 19, 2010

Deserts in the Streams

Today’s devotional is from a Canadian pastor, artist, and blogger I’ve referred to many times at Thinking Out Loud.   Enjoy this item from David Hayward, aka Naked Pastor…

I was talking with a good friend of mine yesterday. She was outside reading ‘Streams’, a devotional book that she loves. She was feeling very much at peace and content. She felt the Presence. She was happy.

Today she got some disturbing news and it totally upset her. We were talking about it. I said, “Unfortunately, the other half of ‘Streams is In The Desert’.

Easy to say. Harder to do. Maybe even impossible. It’s easy when you are in the middle of a stream to enjoy the stream’s benefits. But what about when you are in the middle of severe or chronic illness, in the middle of relational breakdown, in the middle of financial disaster, in the middle of misery, in the middle of the desert? Then what?

Remember. Remember what you read. (Hopefully, when you were reading and were struck by the truth of it, you didn’t just let it trickle over the surface of your mind. Hopefully you let it sink in and actually transform the way you think.) Remember how it informed your mind. Remember how you wished you’d known this during previous desert experiences. Remember how true it seemed to you then, and that you told yourself you would remember this truth even when the circumstances of life contradict it.

Reflect. Don’t just remember it. Now reflect upon the truth you acquired while in the stream. Once when I was extremely thirsty and finally found some water, I found the first mouthful and swallow of water uncomfortable and difficult. Same with the truth in the middle of extreme hardship. Sometimes it is uncomfortable and difficult to take. But knowing that you need it, receive it. Let the truth now nourish you. Meditate upon it and contemplate it in all its complexity. Trust that it is just as true now even when life seems to deny it.

Refresh. As you remember and reflect upon this truth, it will become more palpable to you. In fact, just as water tastes so much sweeter when it is sparse, so the truth just might have more of an impact upon your mind. I have experienced this first hand: the truth that transformed my mind yesterday in the midst of ease became even more true today in the midst of suffering. Truth has a way of shedding light on everything. Even the roots.

Truth is like a stream in the desert. Drink it in while you can. Let it sustain you even into the deepest parts of the desert. Carry it like a bottomless canteen, so that when times are more than difficult, you can find the refreshment it provides.

-David Hayward

Finding a picture to go with a post like this can be a challenge, but this time I had 18 to choose from; check out 18 Most Incredible Desert Oases.

And don’t forget to bookmark David at Naked Pastor.