We had a mountaintop experience with the Lord and now life has apparently settled back to “normal” and we are walking through a deep, dark valley. Faith does not seem to exist and you even question whether God really does love you and wonder if He seriously cares for you or even knows that you exist.
Sometimes the pain in these valley times is so intense that all you can think about is relief. Everything in you just wants it to stop. Because the immediate hurt is so extreme, instead of thinking about Jesus, you may just be thinking about getting out of the pain you’re in. But this can be become a pivotal moment in your faith journey. This is when you can experience the depth of God’s grace in a way that’s impossible during better moments. During mountaintop times. His presence is real in your pain. And it might become more real in this valley than it was on the mountaintop, if you can recognize that the way is through, not out.
Perhaps that’s why Blackaby sees this crisis as so vital, a requisite part of the Christian’s faith. If we’re going to become stronger in our faith, more committed to God, more in love with Jesus, then our beliefs will be tested. They must be tested. Blackaby explains, “Will God ever ask you to do something you are not able to do? The answer is yes, all the time!” People may tell you that God won’t give you more than you can bear. While they probably mean well, that’s simply not true. The Bible does say that God won’t let you be tempted beyond what you can handle (1 Corinthians 10:13). But He often gives you more than you can handle, so you can learn to depend wholly on Him..
Those words can be difficult to read and digest when you’re hurting. Believe me, I understand. Remember: I’ve been there. As a father of 6, I have been there. And as a pastor for 50+ years, I often walk with people through the lowest points in their lives. It’s never easy. But God’s faithfulness is always evident. Often in hindsight. But He is always there and working on your behalf.
I think Christianity has gotten a bad rap in the last few decades because so many Christians try to pretend they have everything figured out. This includes the problem of pain in the world. I’m not against developing a theological understanding of evil in the world, of human suffering, and of the goodness of God. That’s very important. It’s just that when you’re standing in front of a father whose son has just be killed for his faith, or a woman who just learned that her cancer has returned, theology — or at least the ability or need to explain it — isn’t necessarily our first objective. When words don’t work, remember that presence does. Love does. An embrace does. It is time to embrace those walking through the valley and do the same thing Jesus did: love them, challenge them, accept them, forgive them, be there for them.
That’s the beauty and power of the incarnation. God didn’t shout His love from heaven or the mountaintop. He showed us His love on earth as He became one of us in the person of His Son Jesus. When someone is in the valley, rather than trying to explain what’s happening, sometimes we are better off listening. Rather than preaching, we focus on loving. And in those moments of quiet presence, God often reveals Himself in ways that go beyond our human ability to understand.
Unless our own suffering draws us closer to God, it’s hard to offer genuine compassion — and hope — to others. When we aren’t connected to others’ pain, it’s tempting instead to offer them bumper sticker platitudes and pat answers designed to keep our own fragile faith intact. Some people even go so far as to tell those who are suffering that it’s because of sin in their lives or because they don’t have enough faith or because they’re simply getting what they deserve. What a terrible, dangerously, hurtful, unbiblical response! Nowhere do I see Jesus condemning people who are hurting; I see Him only allowing His grace to convict their hearts and convince them of their real need.
Our world is broken. Because we live in a world where our free will has opened the door to our spiritual enemy, we will all continue to experience painfully hard, terrible, unexpected events in our lives. It’s not that growing mature in our faith exempts us from these events. The opposite might be closer to the truth. It’s simply that we’ve experienced enough pain and grown so much closer to God — even in spite of our pain — that our faith has been strengthened, deepened, and matured for the next tough time in the valley.
Author and scholar C. S. Lewis explains it this way: “I’m not sure God wants us to be happy. I think He wants us to love, and be loved. But we are like children, thinking our toys will make us happy and the whole world is our nursery. Something must drive us out of that nursery and into the lives of others, and that something is suffering.”
So, remember, mountaintop or valley — God is with you and He never leaves you or forsakes you. Take His hand and walk through the valley.