Jesus: Our Companion in the Valley

Near Fontana Dam, TN.

Near Fontana Dam, TN.

 

The valley is often a place of loneliness. We may feel that nobody understands exactly how we feel. As we experience sleepless nights, the loneliness and darkness of the night seem to settle like a foggy mist upon us. The hopelessness of our situation paralyzes us . Where can we find hope, comfort and companionship during these dark hours in the valley? The answer is Jesus!

Jesus gives us this promise in Hebrews 13:5: “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”  No matter how dark the night, He will not leave us. No matter how deep the valley, He will not leave us. No matter how painful the path, He will not leave us. As we trod through the valley, Jesus promises to walk every step of the way with us!

The valley no longer is a cold, dark, lonely place when we seek after the Lord and become aware of His presence. David faced many valleys in his life. God used the valleys in David’s life to create a longing for fellowship with Him. In Psalm 42,  David expresses his longing for God. “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God.” (Psalm 42:1-2)

The valley may not be our plan for our lives, but it is God’s plan for our lives. He knows how easy it is for us to drift in our relationship with Him. We can even slowly fall into the sin of the church at Laodicea. This church had become lukewarm because they no longer saw their desperate need for Christ. In our Christian life, there are times when we become lukewarm. The Lord sends us into the valley to restore our passion for Him.

Many of us would say that some of the sweetest times in our lives is our valley experience. Yes, the valley seems painful, lonely, dark and confusing, but it is also quite sweet. It brings us once again to the feet of Jesus. We become broken before our Lord. We don’t pray out of obligation, but out of desperation. We cling to Christ and He takes us unto His bosom and brings great comfort to us.

Christ’s presence changes our whole outlook of our valley. No longer is the valley a place filled with sorrow and bitterness, but a place to accept with joy. How does Christ change our valley from a place of bitterness to a place of sweetness?

1. The valley is a place of darkness, but Christ changes it into a place of light. “I am the Light of the World” (John 8:12)

2. The valley is a place of anxiety, but Christ changes it into a place of peace. “My peace I give unto you.” (John 14:27)

3. The valley is a place of confusion. but Christ changes it into a place of understanding. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

4. The valley is a place of heartache, but Christ changes it into a place of comfort. “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

5. The valley is a place of rejection, but Christ changes it into a place of enjoying His love. “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord”

6. The valley is a place of sleeplessness, but Christ changes it into a place of rest. “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

7. The valley is a place of sorrow, but Christ changes it into a place of joy. “And ye now therefore have sorrow:but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you. (John 16:22)

8. The valley is a place of uselessness, but Christ changes it into a place of ministry. “and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” (John 15:2)

9. The valley is a place of weakness, but Christ changes it into a place of strength. “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

“Dear Lord, thank you for making the bitterness of my valley into something very sweet. Thank you for walking through this valley with me. Thank you for allowing me to draw closer to you during this very difficult time. Though this valley is not my choice, your way is always the best. Thank you for not only taking me into the valley, but also through the valley. Your presence has made all the difference!  Amen”

The Struggle of Faith in the Valley

Charlotte, Michigan Photo by: Mark J Booth

Charlotte, Michigan Photo
by: Mark J Booth

The valley is a place of the unknown. The future is unknown. The next step to take is unknown. The reason for being in the valley is unknown. The unknown causes us to develop fear and anxiety. Faith seems to disappear in our lives. We know that God is with us. We know the promises of God. We want to trust God. We need to trust God! Yet we only see the dark road ahead of us. Why is faith so difficult when we need it the most?

I have tried to understand the answer to the above question. Why can’t I trust my loving God? Why can’t I trust my all-wise God? Perhaps the answer lies in the verse where Jesus tells us that we are to become as little children. “And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3) A little child has great faith and trust, which is essential for us in our walk with God.

When I was very small, I trusted my parents in everything. I didn’t doubt anything they said.  When they said Santa Claus was coming, I believed them. When they took me to the doctor for a painful shot, I believed them when they said it was for my own good. They were my parents; so I trusted them.

As I grew older. I started to doubt what my parents said. I doubted their rules. I doubted what they thought was best for me. I doubted the way they raised me. I still loved them, but I thought I knew better. I lost my childlike trust of them. I weighed everything they did from my very narrow teenage viewpoint.

In my relationship with God, I find it easy to lose my childlike faith. I see my life from my viewpoint. I try to understand what God is doing instead of trusting what He is doing. I try to interfere in what He is doing, instead of submitting to his way of working in a certain situation.

As a child, my parents would take me to various places in our car. I never doubted that I would arrive there safely. I never doubted that they had my best interest at heart. I never complained about the journey. I would sit in the back seat and look around at the scenery and accept that this is what my parents wanted.

Why is it when God is taking me through a valley experience, I don’t trust Him? Does He not know what is best for me? Does He not use the valley experience for my benefit and for the benefit of those to whom I minister? I need to have a childlike faith and believe that God knows what is best. Romans 8:28 is still true: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

The struggle of faith exists because we act too much like adults. We need to see before believing. We need to understand before we believe. We need to know the results before we believe. We need to feel like there is something that we can do to resolve the trial. The more we think like an adult, our faith diminishes.

How can we grow in faith in the midst of the valley? The valley challenges our faith. It batters our faith. We need faith desperately. The first step of faith is to return to a child-like view of God. We don’t have to understand what God is doing. We don’t have to understand what will happen in the future.  We don’t have to know why all of this is happening.  We can look unto our Heavenly Father and know that He has everything under control. His path is always the best way to go; even if it takes us through a dark valley.

“Dear Father, I thank you for your patience with me. I approach you quite often with the attitude that I need to understand everything. I need you to explain everything to me. This has hindered my faith. Please help me to trust you with the heart of a little child. I know that you will resolve my struggle of faith when I surrender my perspective, my ideas, and my dreams unto you. Thank for being my loving Father in whom I can place all of my trust. Amen”

Verses for the Valley

Cape Verde-Photo by: Mark J Booth

Cape Verde-Photo by: Mark J Booth

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us.” (A Tale of Two Cities: By Charles Dickens)

These words by Dickens can typify the valleys that we face in our lives. We can say with Dickens that the valley is the worst of times, but it is also the best of times. It is an anxious time. It is a comforting time. It is a time of sorrow. It is a time of joy. It is a time of discouragement. It is a time of encouragement. It is time of confusion. It is a time of direction. It is a time of silence from God. It is a time of closeness with God.

The valley is a place of contradictions. If our lives were without valleys, there would be very little spiritual growth. The valleys expose our need for God. The valleys expose the many things that need to be changed in our lives. The valleys teach us faith.  Though the valley may not pleasant, there are many verses that bring refreshment to us as we go through the valley. These verses have refreshed me as I have traveled through a valley.

1. GOD IS WITH ME  “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)

In life we often face very dark valleys. How can we keep going as we travel through a valley filled with the unknown, with dangers, and with pain of heart?  The loneliness of the valley can become suffocating. There is no one who understands. There is no one to help us get through this rough patch. However, David understood that the Lord’s presence is with us even in the darkest valley of all, death. God never forsakes His children. Though we don’t see Him, we know that he is with us every step of the way as walk through the dark valley.

A Prayer  “Dear Lord, as I walk through a very dark valley. I don’t know how long I will be here in this valley, but I know that you are with me. You are teaching me. You are guiding me. You are comforting me. You are walking alongside me enabling me to enjoy your presence. Please enable me to honor you while I am walking through this valley. I love you, My Shepherd. Thank you for loving me. Amen”

2. GOD DOESN’T CHANGE.  For I am the Lord, I change not.” (Malachi 3:6)

Changes are reality in life. We change. People change. Our surroundings change; Our circumstances change. Our life can often feel like a boat adrift in the ocean; yet amidst the uncertainties of life, God doesn’t change! His Salvation, His Word, His love, His mercy, His comfort, His faithfulness, His holiness never change. These unchangeable truths give us hope as we trod through the valley. Yes, our world may be changing before our eyes, but God never changes.

3. GOD STRENGTHENS ME. “Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed:for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” (Joshua 1:9)

We need strength and courage for what lies ahead. The path before us looks impossible to tread. We feel tired. We lack sleep. We are emotionally and spiritually exhausted. We want to quit.  We think we can’t go one step further. Where can we find the strength and courage to continue moving forward?  The same strength and courage that Joshua found from God before crossing the Jordan River and confronting Jericho is available to us.

A Prayer “Dear Lord, the path before me seems filled with difficulties and dangers. I feel tired. I don’t know how much further I can go. I have lost the will to continue in the struggle; however, I thank you for your presence. I thank you for giving me the strength and courage to go forward. Amen

4. GOD IS MY FOCUS.  “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:3) “

Have you ever found yourself so engrossed in a situation that all you can do is think about it? There is little sleep.There is little peace. There is little joy. What are we to do?  When we take our eyes off of the situation and place them upon Jesus, our perspective becomes totally different. When we focus upon the people who may have placed us in this valley, we start to become like them. When we place our eyes upon Jesus, we become more like Him.

A Prayer:
There is no wisdom in myself, but in you.
There is no compassion in myself, but in you.
There is no courage in myself, but in you.
There is no peace in myself, but in you.
There is no joy in myself, but in you.
Thank you, Lord, for always being with me, so that when I look to you, you are always there. Amen.

5. GOD IS MY BELOVED (Deuteronomy 33:27) “The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”

The valley can be a place of opposition. You may feel unloved. You may feel alone. This is a time to remember God’s everlasting arms are waiting to embrace and draw you unto Himself. Like a child runs into the arms of a loving parent, We also can run into the arms of our loving Father. The valley produces great needs in our life.  As a result of our needs our love increases for the Lord.

A Prayer: “Dear Lord, I come to you whose arms are wide open. I need you to embrace me and hold me tight because:
I need your love.
I need your comfort.
I need your understanding.
I need your peace.
I need your wisdom.
I need your forgiveness.
Thank you for always being ready to embrace me when I come to you with a broken and contrite heart. Amen”

6. GOD IS MY DELIGHT. “Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” (Psalm 37:4)

In spite of situations that are not delightful, we can still delight in the Lord. When we delight in the Lord, He will change our desires to match HIs desires. Delighting in the Lord will enable us to find peace and joy in the midst of the valley.

God’s Word has always brought comfort to His people. These verses have brought comfort to me in the midst of my valley. May you find comfort in them as you travel through your valley.

 

Lessons from the Valley

Cape Verde Islands- Photo by Mark J Booth

Cape Verde Islands- Photo by Mark J Booth

Recently, I have entered into a deep valley. This valley is not of my choosing, but it is of God’s choosing. God knows exactly what He is doing in my life. The process of becoming more like Christ is not always pleasant. The valley is a place where we meet fire, pressure, and the unknown. The great thing about the valley is that we are not traveling this valley alone. David, who faced many valleys, wrote: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: FOR THOU ART WITH ME; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)

As I have reflected upon these past days, I am learning several lessons. As James wrote: “My brethren, COUNT IT ALL JOY when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” (James 1:2-4) There is joy in the midst of the valley because the Lord is still working in our lives.

At fifty-eight years old, I find myself having to learn new lessons and review old lessons. I am a slow learner, but God is a very patient teacher. He knows what to bring into our lives; so that Christlikeness becomes a reality in our lives. Every valley is different and there are new lessons to learn in each valley. Here are some of the lessons that the Lord is teaching me as travel through this valley.

1. I have learned that every valley is God’s special plan for my life. Joseph didn’t choose to become a slave, but it was God’s special plan. He understood this very clearly when he told his brothers. “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” (Genesis 50:20) Joseph’s brothers did evil when they sold him into slavery; yet God took that evil deed and used it for good.

As I plod through this valley, I am thankful that God is still working in my life: Paul understood this when he wrote: “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6) I am an object of God’s working. He knows the right instrument to use to make me more like Jesus!

2. I have learned that the Valley is a Place of Fellowship with Christ. Communion with Christ can elude us in the good times; however, in the valley, it is essential. The valley shouts to us: “Go to Christ! Go to Christ!” Our need for Christ increases our desire for him. David wrote: “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is.” (Psalm 63:1) When we thirst for Christ, He is always there to satisfy our thirst. When we run from the valley of His choosing, we lose those very intimate times of fellowship with Him.

3. I have learned that I can show my vulnerability before others. The valley has a way of causing us to be broken and humble before God and others. As a result, people see that we are vulnerable. Those who love us will see this vulnerability and try to bring comfort, healing and encouragement into our lives. Naomi showed her vulnerability before Ruth. As a result, Ruth left all and became her dearest friend.

Sometimes, we try to show how strong we are while traveling in the valley. There are people who would be eager to help us in our travels, if only we expressed our need. There is nothing wrong in letting people know that you are traveling through a valley. I am thankful for those members in our church who have seen our vulnerability and have ministered encouragement and love to us. Jonathan had a great ministry of encouragement to David because David showed his vulnerability to Jonathan.

4. I have learned that I need intercessory prayer. When things are going well, we don’t ask people to pray for us. However, when we enter the valley, Paul’s words: “Brethren, pray for us,” easily fall from our lips. I still don’t understand how prayer works, but I do know that it does work. There are many pitfalls in this valley, and yet the prayers of others have taken me through each pitfall.

5. I have learned that tears are perfectly appropriate. I very rarely cry, but when something or someone you love is hurting, tears flow naturally. Jesus said: “Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4) Comfort comes from the Savior who shed His tears for the people of Jerusalem. He sorrows for the same things which causes us to have sorrow. The tears show that I love those things which Jesus loves.

6. I have learned the great comfort that comes from the Word of God. The valley causes us to have a greater desire to read the Word, but it also gives us a greater ability to allow the truths of God’s Word to speak to our hearts. When things are going well, we may read the Bible, but when we are in the valley the Bible becomes a life-preserver. We hold unto its truths as though our lives depend upon it. “It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.” (Psalm 119:71)

As I continue to travel this valley, I am thankful that I don’t have to travel this valley alone. Not only is Jesus walking with me, but my wife is walking right beside me. There will be more lessons to learn and relearn; however, I have the greatest teacher who ever walked the earth. His name is Jesus!

When Disappointment Comes, Twenty Truths to Remember

Guincho Beach in Portugal (Photo by Mark J. Booth)

Guincho Beach in Portugal (Photo by Mark J. Booth)

Life is filled with disappointments. People disappoint us. We disappoint ourselves. Circumstances disappoint us. The question isn’t: “Will disappointments come, but how do we respond in the midst of our disappointments. When we view God in the midst of our disappointments, the disappointment will become a means of a greater love and appreciation for our Great God. Here are twenty truths to remember in the midst of our disappointments.

1. God is on the throne.  “That men may know that thou, whose name alone is Jehovah,art the most high over all the earth.” (Psalm 83:18)

2. God still loves me. “The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.”
(Jeremiah 31:3)

3. God won’t ever leave me, nor forsake me. “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have:for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” (Hebrews 13:5)

4. God is my Shepherd. “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.” (Psalm 23:1-2)

5. God is my Father. “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15)

6. God hears me when I cry out to Him. “This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.” (Psalm 34:6)

7. God is my defense. “The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer;my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.” (Psalm 18:2)

8. God is my guide. “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.” (Psalm 32:8)

9. God will bring comfort. “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

10. God is merciful (He forgives me even when others don’t). “It is of the Lord ‘s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

11. God has a purpose for my life. “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13)

12. God makes all things work together for good. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

13. God teaches me new lessons. “And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. (Romans 5:3-5)

14. God gives me a testimony to others (I need to remember my testimony in spite of what others do.) “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

15. God gives me His strength. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1)

16. God gives me His grace in times of great need. “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee:for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

 17. God encourages me. “And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters:but David encouraged himself in the Lord his God. (1 Samuel 30:6)

18. Christ is interceding for me. “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25)

19. Christ is preparing a place for me in heaven. “Let not your heart be troubled:ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions:if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” (John 14:1-3)

20. Christ will take my burden upon Himself because I can’t carry it. “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.” (Psalm 55:22)

God’s Will or My Will? (Psalm 31:3)

Blue Ridge Parkway-Photo by: Mark Booth

Blue Ridge Parkway-Photo by: Mark Booth

“God’s Will” are words that are commonly used by Christians for many decisions that they make. It sounds spiritual but is this really true? In doing “God’s will” can we be doing our own will? The Psalmist David often struggled with God’s will for his own life. As king, he faced many tough decisions. He knew that his decisions, not only affected him, but many other people. What was David’s guiding principle in acknowledging God’s will for his life? “For thou art my rock and my fortress; therefore FOR THY NAME’S SAKE lead me, and guide me.” (Psalm 31:3)

David understood that doing God’s will had nothing to do with his own desires and goals.  God’s will had everything to do with God’s glory. David knew that motivation was the key in recognizing God’s will for his life. When David pleased himself, he brought harm to himself and others. When David sought to bring glory to God, he brought blessing to himself and others.

There are many people who say they are doing “God’s will”, but it is very questionable. Their motivation seems self-centered instead of God-centered. Sometimes, we ignore Biblical principles in doing “God’s will.” Sometimes, we break commitments in doing “God’s will”. Sometimes, we possess an angry spirit in doing “God’s will. Sometimes, a fear of man is the determining factor in doing “God’s will.” Are we using God as an excuse for fulfilling our own plans and desires?

When we seek to understand the will of God for our lives, we should start where David started. Am I doing this “For His name’s sake”? Will God be glorified in this decision? We often make decisions based on how it will affect our lives, but do we think about God and His glory?

David longed to do God’s will because he knew that in doing His will, he would bring glory to the very One he loved. Every aspect of our lives should bring glory to our God whom we love. When our family is in the will of God, we glorify God. When our use of time is in the will of God, we glorify God. When our service unto God is in the will of God, we glorify God. When our relationships with others are in the will of God, we glorify God.

In conclusion, when we say we are doing “God’s will” let us be very careful to look deep into our hearts and check our motivation for doing “God’s will”. The guiding principle is: “Am I doing this for my name’s sake or for His name’s sake?”

“Dear Lord, as we seek your guidance, we often look at what makes us comfortable, and what makes us happy. We totally forget what brings glory to your name. Please help us, to keep our eyes upon you as we make decisions. The important thing is not what we want, but what you want. May we not confuse the two. Amen.”