Trusting God Through the Valleys: When Life Doesn’t Make Sense
By: Amy Marie
One thing I envy from biblical times was the ability to hear the audible voice of God, often in dreams, saying very clearly, “Go this way” or “Don’t go this way.” We have been entrusted with the Holy Spirit who now speaks to our hearts and guides us through many ways — reading of scripture, heart impressions, circumstances, and words from others. This doesn’t mean God doesn’t speak directly through visions or prophesy or audibly. This does happen too, but more often than not, we’re being led by the Spirit and we need to be seeking God and adopt willing and open hearts to listen in order to hear.
Jesus was born in Israel, Bethlehem of Judea to be precise. Shortly after his birth his Father, Joseph was instructed to move the family and flee to Egypt as refugees and remain there, some speculated for only a few months, until King Herod died. Once that occurred an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream directing them to move to back Israel. However, it wasn’t specified which region. Of course I speculate that Joseph assumed he would be returning to his former region. But, on their way, he was warned in yet another dream to take a detour and stay in the district of Galilee, to a city called Nazareth. This, of course, fulfills prophecy, but wouldn’t be the place of choice or make the most sense for a born King. Nazareth was a place generally held in low esteem, a feeling of contempt seemed to be shown toward it. John 1:46 says, “Can any good come out of Nazareth?” Being (mostly) from Southern California, I envision Nazareth to possibly feel like San Bernadino. Not particularly bad, like maybe Compton, but someone from Pasadena might turn their nose up to.
I’m not sure why the first angel didn’t just instruct them to go directly to Nazareth. Why were the directives divulged only one step at a time? Is it possible that maybe Joseph would have dragged his feet with the instructions for Nazareth to be his family’s new home? Maybe he had to undergo the long journey back and to feel the current danger as he passed through his home town, in order to be content in such a non-destination point, such as Nazareth.
Isaiah 55:8–9 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts”
There are times in our lives which just don’t make sense to our logical, calculating brains. God’s plans are so much higher than what what we can even comprehend in our finite minds. He has deeper and meaningful purposes behind what may feel like inconvenience, unnecessary risk, or illogical. Sometimes we won’t ever understand. Often times, we see purpose as we look back.
I see this in my life, as I’ve just experienced a difficult year of grief and intense stress. This past year included humiliating heartbreak, the grief of turning 40 with a life undetermined, a job layoff and off and on unemployment for over a year. This resulted in selling everything I owned and moving 5 states away for a humbling stay with my parents, working physical labor, low income jobs to make ends meet, not knowing what to do next, and having my body retaliate by pumping out constant stress hormones causing me to battle debilitating anxiety throughout the entire process.
Throughout it all, I see God breaking down idols that I were strongly erecting in my heart, I see Him freeing me from caring about the world’s standards of material wealth and success, I see him taking everything away so I could finally have nothing but Him to turn to as my stubborn heart continued to rebel, I saw him guiding me to a new place that I would have never chosen to go to without having my current world crash around me. I saw Him breaking chains that have bound me for my entire life, that of needing affirmation in order to love and needing the approval of others to feel my worth. I saw Him using my brokenness to bring healing and care to those around me.
If God said directly to me, “You are going to move from LA, a place you love, and I’m moving you to a random town with a weird name that you’ve never even heard of, Chattanooga, TN,” if I went at all, it would have been feet dragging with heart downtrodden. But God orchestrated a healing journey of restoration that prepared me for what was next. I found that through the hardest year of my life, God was allowing what circumstantially didn’t make sense to the world, to guide me to something entirely new.
Even though we cannot hear God’s voice audibly, we can hear the closed doors and be thankful for them, we can hear the crack of a window opening, and we can hear the swinging of a wide-open door and we can feel the presence of the Holy Spirit within it all. I’ve learned that not every open door is the one to walk through, the right ones, although they may not be absent of fear, they are filled with peace.As we walk through the unknown and sometimes scary pathways of life, let us rest in knowing that through every twist and turn, every up and down, even throughout our mistakes and failures, God is moving behind the scenes. He’s preparing us, molding us, sanctifying us, growing us, and using us.
Some of this feels good, some of it doesn’t, but if we can release our need to control, understand, and explain, and instead trust in, not only his unfailing love, but in His absolute delight in us, we can find joy in the valleys, knowing He will never leave or forsake us. (Deuteronomy 31:6)
Our life journeys are full of valleys and mountaintops. As I’m moving to a smaller mountain town, I’m hoping that this will be the part of my journey that hikes up and out of this current valley. But whether what’s next is mountain or valley, we can always trust that there’s a purpose behind it and new directives will be coming.
“He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me.” Psalm 18:19
Trusting God in The Valley
The last few years have been quite difficult for my family and me. First, I was forced to resign from my pastorate to prevent a church split. This led us to move to another state with our three young children. Shortly after that, I was able to find a local maintenance job, but it didn’t pay enough for my family to get by without food stamps or Medicaid.
Also, in the last year our family has been struck by some strong tragedies. My mother-in-law was diagnosed with uterine cancer. My grandfather died after a long struggle with multiple health issues. And a month after my grandfather’s death my cousin was electrocuted in a work-place accident, leaving a wife and five year old son.
Given all of this, it would seem to be easy to despair and turn away from God. After all, where was God when this was happening to me? Yet, we have not turned away from God. My wife and I have actually grown closer to Him through this. How, then, do we stay faithful, stay close?
First, understand that you are not alone.
When walking through the valleys of life it is tempting to feel like you are all alone, like you are the only one to go through this. Well, you aren’t that special! You are not alone in your valley. Others have trod these paths long before you. Job lost all his wealth, his family, and his health. Jesus was a “man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). The early church was persecuted throughout the Roman world. Paul suffered greatly for the cause of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:21-33). Yet he rejoiced in his sufferings (Philippians 3:8-11).
Not only is your situation not exceptional, but you are not abandoned. God is there with you, shepherding you (Psalm 23). Jesus has not abandoned you, he sent a comforter, the Holy Spirit, to be with you (John 14). Jesus promises His people to be with them always (Matthew 28:20). You see, God was with you when all of your sufferings happened. He is there in the valley. He has not abandoned you.
Secondly, pursue spiritual disciplines.
I know it may seem harsh to say, but in the valley you need to be disciplined. You need to keep up your spiritual disciplines, especially when God seems to be far off.
Pray. A constant attitude of prayer is necessary in the valley. (1 Thessalonians 5:16,17) Even in the dark places, rejoicing in prayer for the love of God lavished upon us in the death of his son is vital. Rejoice when you want to cry or shake your fist at God. Pray for your needs. Share with Him your sorrows and fears. Confess your sins. Confess your need of Him.
Read your Bible. Daily faithful Bible study reminds you of the faithfulness of God. His character is shown in the scriptures better than anywhere else. Cling to his promises.
Listen to godly men proclaim the word of God. For me, listening to the preaching of John MacArthur, Charles Swindoll, and Alistair Begg helped me greatly. Godly preaching grounded me, and told me the things I did not want to think in my pain. God is good, all the time. God is sovereign, and He is orchestrating these events for my sanctification. Godly preaching pierces the darkness with God’s light.
Thank God. God is blessing you in the valley. When Paul was in prison, the Philippians sent him a gift of money, but he had learned that God gives him all he needs (Philippians 4:10-13). Paul encouraged them to be thankful for all God has given them. I thank God for His provision in my need. He had not left us homeless, or orphans in this world. He gives us what we need.
This is what has sustained my family and me in our valley. Our valley has been long. We are still in it. We do not know when we will begin to climb the hills again. But we do know our God. He is faithful. I only hope and pray that this helps someone else who is walking through the valley.