God’s Seven Medications for Pain

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With a voice of desperation, I recently called my wife from church. “Please come and get me.” A pain was gripping my abdomen and it wouldn’t let go. I soon was in such great pain that I kept moving about the house in great agony. Finally, I realized the need to go to our local emergency room. What had caused such pain? A four millimeter kidney stone! Yes, something so small can cause such pain!

Pain is a universal experience. We enter into the world with pain and we exit this world with pain. Pain comes in many forms and levels of severity. We all know about physical pain, but there are also other kinds of pain. There is emotional pain, which can include depression, anxiety and sorrow. There is also social pain, which includes loneliness and rejection by others. Spiritual pain is often evident as we experience the effects of sin in our lives.

The Apostle Paul felt various kinds of pain in his life. How did Paul handle this pain? The Book of 2 Corinthians is Paul’s most autobiographical letter. In this letter, he opens up his heart concerning the pain he has experienced. However, he also shares how God ministered unto him in the midst of his pain. Let’s look at seven medications that Paul found to heal his pain.

1. The Medicine of God’s Salvation.  “Grace be to you and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 1:2) The greatest pain that every person has is the pain of sin. We may not always be aware of this pain. We may try to cover it up with activity, entertainment, and denial, but we still have a deep need for a relationship with God. This pain is an emptiness of heart. Paul understood the importance of God’s saving grace in his life. Paul tried to cover up his spiritual pain by persecuting believers and being self-righteous. However, when he met Jesus, he found instant healing of the pain he had in his soul. Have we ever experienced this healing in our lives?

2. The Medicine of God’s 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)

A person in pain normally seeks comfort. During my bout with the kidney stone, I found many comforters, including my wife, my daughter, and the Emergency Room staff. Sometimes, we feel alone in our pain. No one seems to bring comfort to us. However, the God of all Comfort is with us. He desires to minister His comfort no matter what kind of pain we are facing. If we have emotional pain, He will give us His peace. If we have social pain, He will give us His presence. If we have physical pain, He will give us His strength to bear it. His arms are waiting to wrap themselves around us. Will we accept His comfort?

3. The Medicine God’s Faithfulness.  “But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us;” (2 Corinthians 1:9)

Pain has a way of taking away our self-sufficiency. As I was writhing in pain in the ER, I didn’t know any of the people who were attending me, but I completely entrusted myself to them. I knew that I needed them to do something with my pain. Likewise, we often become self-sufficient. God allows pain in our lives; so that we would become God-sufficient. Pain has a way of driving us to our Faithful God. Paul was close to a violent death; yet he discovered healing by trusting in His Faithful God who would never fail him.

4. The Medicine of God’s Promise. “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven:” (2 Corinthians 5:1,2)

All of God’s promises have a healing balm to them. For example, the pain of death is the most severe pain we face in this life. Death separates us from our loved ones. Death will one day take a hold of us. However, we can find a cure for this pain in God’s promise of heaven. One day, we will have a life without pain, without tears and without death. When we focus on this great promise, and other promises of God, they give us hope in the midst of our pain.

5. The Medicine of God’s Love.  “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:” (2 Corinthians 5:14).  Love is a great medicine in our lives, especially when we are talking about God’s infinite love. Whatever pain we are facing, we know that God loves us and that He is walking with us through the pain. His loving plan will use the pain to draw us closer to Him.

6. The Medicine of God’s Grace and Strength. “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9, 10)

Pain weakens us. Pain paralyzes us. Pain dominates our thoughts. Where can we find strength in the midst of our sense of weakness and pain? Paul found his strength in the Almighty God! Pain creates a great sense of need. When I was in great pain in the ER, I needed something to get me through this pain. It came in the form of a powerful drug. God’s strength and grace are powerful.  We find that God is greater than any pain. His grace will carry us through even the deepest heartache that we are experiencing.

7. The Medicine of God’s People. Nevertheless God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus;” (2 Corinthians 7:6) The feelings of depression, discouragement and heartache may not be physically painful, but they are spiritually and emotionally painful. God often chooses to heal us of these painful feelings by placing people in our lives who encourage us with their example, words, help, and presence. We often allow our pain to isolate us from the very people who God wants to use as His agents of healing. Will we allow pride to keep us from allowing others to administer healing to our pain?

Pain reveals a need.  Yes, the medical professionals have medicines to help us with our physical pain, but what about the other kinds of pain that we experience. God has several types of medications that are made for our deepest pain, the pain of our soul. God’s medicine is available. God’s medicine is free. God’s medicine has only beneficial side-effects. However, God’s medicine is only effective if we take it. Will we?

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Five Important Questions for the New Year

Winter Scene-Michigan USA

Winter Scene-Michigan USA

The year 2014 is upon us. Perhaps, we have already made some goals for the new year.  We may plan to do more exercise or eat less food. Perhaps, we want to travel more, or get out of debt. In light of our goals for 2014, will we take the time to do an inventory of our spiritual lives?

God says in Haggai 1:5: “Now therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways”. God’s people had returned to their land, but they had neglected to rebuild the temple. They were too busy with their own affairs. to concern themselves with God and His priorities. Today, we often neglect our spiritual lives because we become preoccupied with all the activities that make demands on our time. Like the Israelites, have we neglected to take an inventory of our spiritual life?

The word “consider” means to note thoroughly, to perceive clearly, to think deeply. This word is used sixty-six times in the Bible. Why does God place such a priority on this word? Is it because He knows that we have the habit of keeping busy so that we don’t take the time to consider our walk with Him?  Here are five important questions that will help us to “consider our ways.”

1. How well do I know God?  “That I may know Him.” (Philippians 3:10) These words show Paul’s great desire to know the Lord in a personal way. He didn’t just want to know about God, but he wanted to know God intimately as His Father, Lord and Friend. Intimacy comes by spending time with God in His Word. We will study His Word to learn more about His character, His works, and His promises. Intimacy comes by spending time with God in prayer. Intimacy also comes by spending time meditating upon God. This will cause our love for Him to grow!

2. How well do I know myself?  ”Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:” (Psalm 139:23) We often find it difficult to allow God to search every aspect of our life. We like to focus on all of our “good points” and we tend to ignore our sins or weaknesses. God gives us His Word to enable us to see areas that we need to change in our lives. When we read the Word of God, do we allow God to convict us of our sins? Do we allow Him to show us areas in our lives in which we need to improve? Do we allow Him to show us our apathy in spiritual matters? Examining our lives may not be pleasant, but it is a great step in moving forward in our spiritual lives in 2014.

3. How well do I use my time?  “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:16)  Time is a gift that we often waste on matters that are not very important. We have many tools today to save time; yet we seem to have less time than ever. We allow the urgent to crowd out the important.

Big Ben-London England (Photo in Public Domain)

Big Ben-London England (Photo in Public Domain)

The Apostles Paul understood that his greatest priority in life was to mature in his faith.  “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14) His time, efforts and focus were upon his spiritual well-being. We spend a lot of time taking care of our physical bodies, but what about our spiritual life? Time is a gift that we can invest in those things that promote our spiritual well-being.

4. How well do I encourage those around me?  We often focus upon our own lives and we forget the impact that our lives have upon other people. One of my favorite Bible characters is Barnabas. He was a man who was always encouraging others.

  • He encouraged others by his example. He did this with his generous gift to the church (Acts 4:36-37). The Bible also says about Barnabas: “He was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith:” (Acts 9:23) If people followed our example what kind of Christian would they be?
  • He encouraged others by his friendship. Barnabas extended the hand of friendship to Paul when nobody else did. (Acts 9:26-27) People need friends, but our culture of isolation has kept us from reaching out to others with the needed hand of friendship.
  • He encouraged others with his words. Barnabas was a leader who encouraged the early church in Antioch with his words (Acts 9:23)  We can use our words to discourage a person or to encourage them.
  • He encouraged others by giving them a second chance. John Mark had failed on the first missionary journey. Paul didn’t want to take the chance to take John Mark on the second journey. Barnabas choose to give John Mark a second chance. This same John Mark would later write the Gospel of Mark. People will fail us, just as we fail others. Will we give them a second chance?

5. How well do I glorify God in all that I do?  The greatest purpose of our life is to bring glory to God. “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)  God wants to be glorified in all that we do. Do we glorify God in our thoughts, attitudes, words and actions? De we glorify God in our family? Do we glorify God at work or school? Do we glorify God with our plans and goals in life?

We have come to another crossroads in our lives. We have a great opportunity before us. What will we do with this opportunity?  We can move forward in our spiritual lives or we can remain stagnant. God desires us to move forward in our spiritual lives.

“Dear Heavenly Father, I am entering a new year. I know that I have fewer years ahead of me than behind me. It is critical that I allow you to clearly show me, what I need to do in this coming year. Help me to know you more intimately. Guide me as to the use of my time. Use me to encourage the people you bring into my life. Above all, I want to glorify you in all that I am and do.  Thank you for the blessings of 2013.  Thank you for continuing your work in and through my life. Amen”

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The Wonder of the Babe in the Manger

This post is reblogged because it helps us to focus upon the true wonder of Christmas. Thank you for subscribing to my blog. I know that I haven’t written lately, but I do hope to remedy that soon. May each of you have a blessed Christmas.

MarkJemilBooth's Blog

Christmas in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1983 was quite different for our family of three. I had always been accustomed to cold weather and snow in Michigan.  In Johannesburg, it was the middle of the summer.  What could we do special with our toddler?  We ventured out one evening to nearby Joubert Park to see the annual Christmas displays.  We were surprised that the displays had nothing to do with Christmas.  Each display depicted a fairy tale story.  What did the Three Blind Mice and Little Jack Horner have to do with Christmas?   Where was Jesus in the manger?  Where was the Christmas music?  Finally, in a quiet corner, we found the manger scene lost in the midst of the fairy tales.

Today, those displays remind me of how easy it is to forget Jesus in the midst of all the activity, lights, music and shopping of the season…

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Twenty Daily Blessings from Our Heavenly Father

Sunrise in the Smokies

Sunrise in the Smokies

“Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah” (Psalm 68:19)

Our Heavenly Father demonstrates His love towards us every day. These daily blessings are often not seen or appreciated by His children. Why is this? We often focus upon our past, instead of living out today. We often worry about the future instead of enjoying the blessings of today.  God not only gives us blessings for today, but he gives them abundantly!  What are some of these daily blessings? Will we enjoy these blessings today?

1. God gives us the gift of a brand new day to love and serve Him.

2. God gives us the privilege of opening His Word and hearing His words of truth, encouragement, promise and exhortation.

3. God give us the opportunity to speak to Him at any time during the coming day. He is never too busy to hear our prayers.

4. God promises to love us throughout the day regardless of what happens.

5. God’s Holy Spirit dwells within us. He brings guidance, comfort and spiritual fruit into our lives.

6. God gives us the confidence that whatever comes into our lives today must first pass through His loving hands.

7. God gives us His forgiveness .  When we confess our sins to Him, He restores us to a right relationship with Him.

8. God gives us what we need for today not necessarily what we want.

9. God brings people into our lives each day to fulfill His plan for our lives.

10. God gives us the privilege of His presence throughout the day. He is always with us!

11. God gives us the strength we need to bear what may happen throughout the day.

12. God gives us His comfort when sorrow, rejection or pain may seem to overcome us.

13. God gives us the assurance of eternal life if die today. We are confident that death is  an entranceway to heaven.

14. God is always available to hold us up when we seem ready to fall. Fathers do this for their children.

15. God knows all that is happening in our lives today. Nothing that happens today is a surprise to God.

16. God gives us wisdom to face whatever situation may arise in our life.

17. God gives us the opportunity to enjoy His creation.

18. God gives us the ministry of encouraging others and praying for others.

19. God enables us to escape the snares of Satan’s temptations.

20. God gives us a restful night sleep if we trust in Him.

“Dear Lord, I often forget the blessings that you give to me every day of my life. Yes, I see particular answers to prayer, but I often forget what you give to me every day. I thank you for all of your blessings that you give to me each day; however, the greatest blessing is that you sent your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ to die for my sin. Help me to keep looking up to you instead allowing myself to focus on the past or the future. Today is the gift that you have given me. Help me not to forget how you have loaded me up with great blessings today. I love you, Lord. Amen.”

Ten Reasons to Thank God for the Valley

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The valley is a place that we never choose for ourselves, but God chooses it for us. His plan for our life doesn’t just include the blessings and the mountaintop experiences.  His plan includes the valleys. At times, we are so deep in a valley that we forget God and His promises.

The valley challenges our faith in many areas, including our trust in God, our steadfastness in Christ, and our love for God and others. When we enter the valley, we struggle with having a grateful heart before God. We look at our dire circumstances and feel numb. We feel as though we are watching a tragedy unfold and we are one of the main characters. We lose our focus upon God as we travel deeper into the valley.

After the initial shock of entering the valley, we realize that we need to cry out to God. We ask for deliverance. We ask for relief. We ask for strength. We ask for wisdom. However,  worry and fear are still affecting us spiritually. Why is there no relief? Have we neglected to thank God for our valley?  How can we travel through the valley with an ungrateful heart? Giving thanks to God helps to give us perspective concerning the valley. Gratefulness enables us to see the valley as a place of abundant blessings from God.

As the song writer wrote: “When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed; when you are discouraged thinking all is lost; Count your many blessings, name them one by one and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.” What are some of the reasons that we can thank God for the valley.

1. The valley gives us a thirst for God. Nothing can satisfy our soul in the valley but God Himself. “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.” (Psalm 42:1) The valley causes us to run into the arms of our loving Father. The valley creates a thirst that only our Heavenly Father can fulfill.

2. The valley gives us a broken and contrite heart. The valley has a way of bringing us down to our knees. The valley shows us our weakness and need for God’s help. Our heart becomes broken and humble before God. Nothing is more special in God’s eyes than when His children come to Him in complete desperation.  “The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)

3. The valley gives us an eternal perspective concerning life. Often we are so involved in the things of this life that we forget our glorious future with the Lord. When God takes us into the valley, our perspective on life is changed. The eternal suddenly becomes much more important in our lives. “Set your affections on things above, and not on things on the earth.” (Colossians 3:2)

4. The valley causes us to search our hearts. “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: (Psalm 139:23) The busyness of our lives often keeps us from reflecting upon our hearts. We go through the motions and neglect to take inventory of our lives. When God takes us into the valley, we find ourselves looking for answers. This helps us to search our hearts as to our past, present and future.

5. The valley can often bring marriages and families closer together. “Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he (Lazarus) whom thou lovest is sick.”
(John 11:3) Tragedy and heartache can bring families closer together or further apart. In the case of Lazarus, his death brought his family closer together. When one member of a family enters into a valley, it is a great opportunity for others in the family to travel with their loved one.

6. The valley tests our friendships. “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” (Proverbs 17:17) The valley exposes the true loyalty of a friend. A true friend doesn’t run away when their friend enters into the valley, but they encourage him. They do whatever they can to help their friend. There are many so-called friends who are exposed in the valley because they watch from the sidelines as their “friend” travels the painful road in the valley.

7. The valley gives us a hunger for the Word of God. “It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.” (Psalm 119:71) When times are going well, we read our Bibles out of obligation, but when we enter the valley we read our Bibles out of necessity. The Word of God opens up to us with its promises, comfort and even conviction.

8. The valley is a place where Jesus becomes our sweet companion. “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) The valley is a place where we may feel lonely, but we are never alone. We have a companion who walks every step of the way in the valley with us. The walk in the valley is difficult, but we can find it pleasant because we experience a closeness to the Lord that we don’t normally.experience.

9. The valley broadens our ministry towards others. “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 1:4) God’s ministry of comfort, strength and encouragement in our valley enables us to have compassion upon others who are in the valley. When we respond to the valley in God’s way, we will find many doors of ministry that will become open to us.

10. The valley enables others to minister unto us. “The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain:” (2 Timothy 1:16) The valley enables others to reach out to us. We become thirsty for encouragement and people see this need and refresh us. They can refresh us with their presence, with their words, and with their prayers.

Yes, the valley doesn’t seem attractive when we first enter; however, as time goes by, we learn the secret of the valley. This is a place of great blessing. This is a place of experiencing God’s love. This is a place of spiritual growth. The key to having the valley become a very positive experience is to thank God for this time in our lives.

“Dear Lord, I didn’t ask for this valley. I didn’t expect this valley. Yes, this valley has been difficult; however I thank you for this valley. It has been an experience that I wouldn’t trade. You have used this valley in my life in so many ways! Please don’t ever stop your work in my life. Thank you for the your wisdom, tenderness, strength and love that I am experiencing in this valley. Amen.”

Fear and Pride

Here is a post by our daughter-in-law, Sarah. She shares some of her challenges in moving to Portugal, especially learning to communicate in a different language. Join Sarah as she shares some very important lessons!

Booths in Portugal

Recently Sarah wrote this article as a guest writer for another missionary’s website. These are Sarah’s reflections about the challenges she faced when we first came to Portugal in 2008 and what God taught her through it all.

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Once upon a time, I was a capable American adult. I knew two languages, taught in a public school, did my own banking and grocery shopping, drove my car, and served in my church. I was competent.

And then I moved to Portugal.

I stepped off the plane, and all I heard was, “Mush, mush, mush.” I couldn’t drive the car, didn’t know how to read the signs, wasn’t sure what I was buying in the store, and had to give strangers kisses on both cheeks. Church was a two-hour struggle to stay awake through messages I didn’t understand. I was lost and nervous. I wanted to hide in a corner…

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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!