Moving forward through the dark valleys - By Greg Laurie, Published March 13, 2020 at 7:05pm
There are people who make professions of faith and say they're Christians, and all the initial signs convince us that it's so. But then a few months later, they fall away.
The reality is their conversion may never have been real at all. Time will tell whether someone is really a believer.
Jesus told a parable in which he described people like these as seed sown on rock-infested ground. The roots go down partially but hit the rock. When the seedling shoots up, it has no roots to sustain itself, and it quickly withers in the sun.
He explained, "The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. But since they don't have deep roots, they don't last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God's word" (Matthew 13:20–21 NLT).
The real tests of conversion are hardships, trials, temptations, and persecution, because valleys and storms are all part of the Christian life. Jesus said, "Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows" (John 16:33 NLT).
When we come to those times in our lives, we might say, "Hold on, now. I didn't sign up for this. I don't want hardships. I don't want conflicts. I want to live on easy street."
And sadly, when difficulty or tribulation or persecution comes into the Christian life, some will throw in the towel and go back to their old lives.
No doubt we all cringe when we come to the mouth of some long valley that seems to loom endlessly before us. We love the green pastures. We like sunshine and blue skies, not clouds and gloom.
Yet God will reveal himself in a unique and special way in the valleys of life.
The apostle Paul, who had an incredible experience of actually being caught up into heaven, saw things that he couldn't even describe. He said, "So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, 'My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.' So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me" (2 Corinthians 12:7–9 NLT).
Like Paul, we can experience God's presence and power in a unique and special way during hardships.
Notice that when he was writing Psalm 23, David didn't say, "Even when I crawl through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid" or "When I curl up and die in the darkest valley, I will not be afraid."
No, he said, "Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me" (verse 4 NLT, emphasis added). He was moving forward.
We find another example of this in the New Testament, when Jesus sent his disciples across the Sea of Galilee. Meanwhile, he was praying for them on a mountain. But as they journeyed across the huge freshwater lake, a horrendous storm whipped up. They were afraid the waves would overtake them and drown them. It was so bad, in fact, they even despaired of life.
Then suddenly they saw Jesus walking to them on the water.
I love G. Campbell Morgan's commentary on this story: "It is too dark for you to see Him yet, but He is coming. He cannot leave you alone to perish. And mark this, He is coming over the very waves you are most afraid of. The very waves that threaten to buffet and break you to pieces are the pavement for His blessed feet."
Isn't that a great statement? Sometimes the very things we fear the most are the tools God will use in our lives to bring us closer to himself.
As we go through valleys in life, they often are not of our own making but are allowed by God to bring changes in our lives. For instance, the apostle Paul certainly hadn't sinned or done anything that would bring God's punishment, which was evidenced by his thorn in the flesh. In fact, it was a result of his seeing the glory of God. Thus, the Lord allowed this difficulty in Paul's life to keep him humble.
We can think of others, like Joseph. Through no fault of his own, he went through tremendous hardships in his life. But God allowed it.
Job is another example. It wasn't because of his sinfulness that he went through hardship. In reality, it was because of his righteousness.
So sometimes we don't bring these hardships on ourselves. Rather, we're going through them because God is doing a work in our lives.
If you're a follower of Christ, then the Lord is your shepherd. He will see you through whatever crisis you face. And with that in mind, you can also find great comfort in knowing that one day, you will see him face to face.