Tag Archives: Trials

Going Through The Valley

I’ll never forget the first time I climbed up the side of a mountain. I was somewhere in Washington State a month or two after my mom passed away. I remember the climb up was more difficult than I imagined. When I got halfway up, I sat down to take break. As I looked down on the valley, I was struck by its beauty and lush vegetation. I remember thinking that while I couldn’t stay in the valley, I could at least grow while I was in it. What had seemed dark and dry from below, now looked like fertile soil from higher up. God used that climb to speak to me and to bring healing. I wasn’t meant to stay in the valley, but just because I was walking through one, it didn’t mean God couldn’t grow me through it. What seemed like a dry time in my life was really God planting seeds in fertile soil.

When we go through some of the darkest times in our life, we refer to it as going through a valley. David famously wrote in the 23rd Psalm, “Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me” (NLT). God doesn’t leave us when we go through the valleys of life. He’s close to you even when you can’t feel Him, and He’s given you tools for protection and comfort. He then prepares a table for you there representing that you will be taken care of and that you can thrive even in the darkest times of your life.

I like the promise given in Psalm 84:6-7. It says, “As they pass through the dry valley of Baca, it becomes a place of springs; the autumn rain fills it with pools. They grow stronger as they go; they will see the God of gods on Zion” (GNT). Your dry, dark times will become a place of life that you will look back on the rest of your life to draw strength from. It doesn’t feel like it in the moment, but when you get more perspective as you move forward up the mountains in your life, you will see that God never left you and He uses these times to make us stronger. Keep pushing forward through what seems like a dark and dry time, trust the promises in God’s Word and know that what you’re walking through is preparing you to make a difference in the lives of others. What seems like an end is truly a new beginning.

Thanks to Sohaib Ghyasi @sohaibghyasi for making this photo available freely on Unsplash

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Your Rubicon Trail

I have a friend with a Jeep and one of the things he likes to do is to take it off road. There are trails around the country that Jeep enthusiasts go to. These trails are rated by the package on your Jeep. To go on certain ones, you have to have a certain package or another with upgrades or you won’t make it. There’s one in the High Sierra’s near Lake Tahoe called the Rubicon Trail. It’s a grueling 22 mile off road trail that challenges even the most seasoned off road drivers. I’ve watched several videos of people doing some amazing driving on this trail. These drivers move forward on this trail confidently and help others along the way. It’s pretty cool to watch them navigate, learn and maneuver some rugged terrain.

When talking about our spiritual walk, we often refer to the good times as “mountaintop experiences” and dark times as “being in the valley”. However, like the Rubicon Trail, sometimes the challenging times of life are high on the mountain or on your way up. You may get some bumps and scratches on the way through the rugged terrain. Some of the toughest times in David’s life were after the high of being anointed king. He had to navigate through some rough terrain, but in the process, God was preparing him for the responsibility of what was coming. There were some emotional set backs on his Rubicon Trail to the throne, but he kept moving forward with the confidence of his calling.

I’m reminded of Habakkuk 3:19. It says, “The Lord GOD is my strength [my source of courage, my invincible army]; He has made my feet [steady and sure] like hinds’ feet And makes me walk [forward with spiritual confidence] on my high places [of challenge and responsibility]” (AMP). I don’t know what your Rubicon Trail is, but I do know that God is your source of courage and your navigator through rough terrain. He will help you to keep moving forward towards your goal with confidence even when the roadway is seemingly blocked and you can’t see the end. He uses these times as part of His process to prepare you for the promise. Look around you to see who He has placed in your life to help get you through. Don’t travel this terrain alone. Find a strong believer to help guide you and pray you through.

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An “I Will” Attitude

One of my favorite shows is Alone. They take ten people, put them in a hostile environment with ten items and have them survive until everyone taps out. It appeals to me for many reasons, but one of my favorite parts is when the contestants have been alone and hungry for about 30 days. There is a huge psychological battle every contestant faces as they document themselves on this journey. Some grow to hate the location, the hunger, the isolation and the constant struggle for food and water. Then there are others who are in a similar location a few miles away that get ahold of the negative thoughts and begin speaking positive words instead. In every case, the ones who continue to speak negatively tap out of the contest. The one who can continue to find positive things through the struggle is the one who wins.

I’m not sure there’s another person in the Bible besides Jesus who suffered more than Paul. He was imprisoned multiple times in jails that were dark, nasty and had no humanitarian standards for prisoners. He was shipwrecked, beaten to a pulp many times, dragged out of cities, lied about, stoned, robbed, left for dead and abandoned. The things he went through, many of us couldn’t survive. However, Paul kept preaching the Gospel, writing letters and encouraging others through it all. My favorite story is when he was in a dungeon of a prison, bleeding and hungry, and he starts singing praises to God for all to hear. No matter how bad things were, he found a way to praise and refocus his attention on God instead of his circumstances.

David was a lot like him too. In Psalm 34:1-2 David penned, “I will praise the Lord at all times. I will constantly speak his praises. I will boast only in the Lord; let all who are helpless take heart” (NLT). He didn’t say, “I want to praise the Lord at all times.” He was saying, “I will,” as in he’s not going to give his mind the choice to do anything else. Do you have have an “I will praise the Lord at all times” attitude? You need to decide that attitude ahead of your circumstances, but even if you’re in the middle of hard times now, you can choose it. Praising God doesn’t change your circumstances, it changes you in the middle of them. It strengthens you and puts your focus on the One who is greater than what you’re facing. If you haven’t chosen to praise the Lord at all times, do it today and put it into practice. He deserves to be praised in the good times and the bad.

Photo by Rainier Ridao on Unsplash

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Abandoned

To abandon someone is to quit supporting them or to give up on them. If you’ve ever been through some of life’s toughest circumstances, you know what it’s like to be abandoned by some of your family or friends. You find out that there are people in your life that you can count on, and there are people that you can’t. When you’re looking for advice, a place to regroup, or just a shelter from the storm, some people that you seek out will abandon you. Some of the ones who you thought would support you through thick and thin give up on you.

David was a person who knew a thing or two about being abandoned. He was forgotten by his father, disrespected by his brothers, shamed by his wife, chased by the king, and dishonored by his son. The people in his life that he should have been able to count on, turned their backs on him at some point in his life. He knew a thing or two about rock bottom. He looked for those he could count on in times of trouble.

In all of his searching, there was one who never abandoned him: God. David wasn’t a perfect man either. He cheated on his wife, had a man murdered, and did some unthinkable things. Yet when he sought after God, he knew that no matter what he had done, God would not abandon him. He knew that there was nothing he had done that God couldn’t or wouldn’t forgive. When others gave up on him, God never did. In fact, God said he was a man after His own heart.

You may have walked David’s shoes. Maybe you’ve been abandoned by those who love you or you’ve abandoned the things you know are right. Either way, if you will seek God, He won’t abandon you. Psalm 9:10 says, “Those who know you, Lord, will trust you; you do not abandon anyone who comes to you” (GNT). It doesn’t matter what’s been done to you or what you’ve done to others, you can find shelter, hope, and forgiveness in God when you seek Him out.

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.

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Preparing To Help Others

Several years ago I got a group of people together online who were going through difficult times. My plan was to meet with them each day for 30 days to provide them with encouragement from God’s Word as I shared the struggle I had made it through. I think we were about a week into it when one of the participants messaged me and said, “We get it that you made it through. What we need to know is how you made it through.” It was an aha moment for me as a writer, but as I went to answer her, I realized I hadn’t stopped to consider the steps I had taken to survive. The group quickly fizzled out because I didn’t have that answer. I wanted to help them, but just because I had walked where they were walking didn’t help them much. It gave them hope that they could survive, but still left them without a roadmap out.

There are several books of the Bible that share with us the struggles that David went through. He waited nearly 15 years from the time he was anointed king to becoming king, he ran from Saul, faced a coup from his son, sinned against God and so much more. His life was not perfect and he went through a lot. Reading about those things is inspiring, but it’s the Psalms that draw us in because they are the roadmap. They share how he survived those trials and consequences. He writes out where he put his hope, how he trusted God and that he needed a new heart. They speak to us more than the stories because as we go through difficulties, we need practical information of how to get through things.

2 Corinthians 1:4 says, “He helps us in all our troubles, so that we are able to help others who have all kinds of troubles, using the same help that we ourselves have received from God” (GNT). If you’ve made it through troubled times, think about how you made it through so you can help those who will go through something similar later. If you’re going through hard times now, keep a journal. It may be the key that helps someone else later. Your trials are not without purpose. Yes, they help purify you and strengthen you, but they’re also so that you can help someone else later. God helps us through difficult times, but there are practical things you’re doing or have done that other will need to know. Don’t get stuck without an answer like I was. Be prepared to help with a roadmap when the time comes.

Photo by Susan Yin on Unsplash

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Trusting The Truth

I have a friend who is both a pilot and a flight instructor. Being a trainer myself, I asked him about ways he helps people to remember things. He shared that two things he tries to teach pilots are to trust the instruments and also to go to the manual when there’s a problem. He said that many pilots have died because they trusted what they thought they saw instead of the instruments. They have special visors that block the pilots view of everything except the instruments to teach them to trust them. To teach them to go to the manual, he distracts them mid flight, then he shuts off the engines when their not looking. He lets them panic until they remember to go to the manual. Once they do that, they go through their checklist, find the problem and restart the engines. It’s a lesson they never forget.

Both of those are great lessons for us to remember as well. We can’t trust what we feel or even see with our eyes. Feelings lie to us and manipulate us. They’re there as warning signs, but if we constantly live by our feelings, we’ll have a miserable life. We live in an age where people believe truth is relative to the individual. What’s true for me may not be true for you. Living like that is like flying by what you see and not by the instruments. It’s dangerous. Jesus said He was the way, the truth and the life. He is the absolute truth that we must use to guide our lives with beyond our feelings. He told us that we’re going to have trouble and face things that will cause us to want to lose faith, but He also said that He has overcome the world and will give us peace. We get that peace when we trust Him more than what we feel or see.

We’ve also been given an instruction manual in the Bible. It is also absolute truth. When the engines of our life shut off and we start to nose dive, go to the manual God gave us. I love how Philippians 4:8 starts. It says, “Fix your thoughts on what is true” (NLT). Don’t let fear dictate your thoughts and actions. Compare everything to what is true. If it’s not true, don’t give it space in your head. What God says is more true than your situational feelings. Fix your mind on God’s absolute truth and not on your feelings. Fix your mind on the truth of God’s Word and not what others tell you is true. This takes discipline, but it gives you peace when everything seems to be falling apart. Jesus has not abandoned you or forgotten you. He’s right there in the cockpit of life with you reminding you to trust His instruments and His Word to get you through.

Photo by Oskar Kadaksoo on Unsplash

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A Place Of Abundance

When we go through hard times, we all want to know why. What did we do to deserve it? Why does it have to last so long? Did God abandon us? Has He forgotten us? How much more can we endure before we break? These are all questions we think about when we go through the fire of trials. It’s been my experience that it’s not until well after that I begin to get any insight into it, if at all. So why does God allow us to face unbearable conditions?

In a word, it’s transformational. There can be no transformation in our lives without hard times. They mold us, purify us and move us from one place to another. As my nephew says, “No pressure, no diamond.” The problem is, we want the diamond without the pressure. We want the transformation without the trial. We want strength without having to endure heavy lifting. We want things now instead of later, but that’s not how God works, nor is it how we were designed.

In Psalm 66:10-12 it says, “You have tested us, O God; you have purified us like silver. You captured us in your net and laid the burden of slavery on our backs. Then you put a leader over us. We went through fire and flood, but you brought us to a place of great abundance” (NLT). It was God who tested them, put a heavy burden on them and sent them through the fire and flood. He does the same to us today. It’s not fun, it hurts and it’s hard to get through at times, but God has a plan.

As the psalmist wrote, He’s purifying us in order to bring us to a place of abundance. You can’t get to the abundance without going through the purification of fire. When those times come remember that if you will endure it, God is working it out for your good. He’s bringing you to a place that you could never get to without having gone through it. Also remember his promise in Isaiah 42:3, “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.” He’s there with you in these times and won’t let them crush you. Hang in there, abundance is coming.

Photo by Aziz Acharki on Unsplash

Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.

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Test Time

In high school I had a teacher who seemed to relish giving tests. He wore his “test tie”, which was the ugliest, most distracting tie you can think of, and it clashed with his outfit usually. He also would wear a red contact lens in one eye. As he passed out the test, he would close the other eye and give each person a hard gaze with the red one. During the test, he would often each chips when the room was quietest. When people would look up, he would say, “Oh! Is this bothering you?” Every once in a while he would also let out a random sinister laugh. To be honest, I looked forward to test days because I thought it was hilarious. He also was always good about preparing us for the tests. If you had taken the time to prepare, you would have been able to pass despite the distractions.

While some people cracked under his antics, most of us did well. Those that cracked were always given the opportunity to make it up by correcting their mistakes or asking for help during the test. I don’t know that God relishes having us go through tests as much as that teacher did, but He knows they are necessary to our growth and development. He prepares us for them and gives us every opportunity to pass them. When we fail in them, He’s always there to guide us and to help us endure them. He knows what your limits are better than you do, and He uses times of testing to stretch us beyond what we think we know or can handle. He also gives us enough grace in those times to sustain us as we learn to lean on His strength.

Here are some Bible verses on testing.

1. We all experience times of testing, which is normal for every human being. But God will be faithful to you. He will screen and filter the severity, nature, and timing of every test or trial you face so that you can bear it. And each test is an opportunity to trust him more, for along with every trial God has provided for you a way of escape that will bring you out of it victoriously.

1 Corinthians 10:13 TPT

2. Blessed [happy, spiritually prosperous, favored by God] is the man who is steadfast under trial and perseveres when tempted; for when he has passed the test and been approved, he will receive the [victor’s] crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.

James 1:12 AMP

3. My friends, consider yourselves fortunate when all kinds of trials come your way, for you know that when your faith succeeds in facing such trials, the result is the ability to endure. Make sure that your endurance carries you all the way without failing, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

James 1:2-4 GNT

4. Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested.

Hebrews 2:18 NLT

5. There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!

Romans 5:3-5 MSG

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God’s Availability

Have you seen the meme that says, “You’re being held at gunpoint. The person holding the gun lets you make one phone call. If they answer, you die. Who are you calling?” You can probably think of a couple of people you know who never answer their phone. I know I can. What if it were reversed and they had to answer or you would die? Know anyone that always answers when you call? I fit into that category. I even answer the phone when the caller ID says, “Potential Spam”. I like to be available if someone needs something, so I answer.

Several years ago, my mom passed away after a year long battle with breast cancer. We prayed and fasted and had faith like you’re supposed to. We had purchased a dress for her to wear for Easter believing that she would rise up by then and be able to go to church. She didn’t get healed, and even died less than a week after Easter. To be honest, I got upset with God thinking He wasn’t available to answer our prayers. I decided I wouldn’t call on Him for anything again, but we could stay in contact, as silly as that seems. That was the case for a couple of years until I needed Him again. I knew that He would be available despite my tantrum and I began to go to Him again when I needed help.

Psalm 46:1 says, “God, you’re such a safe and powerful place to find refuge! You’re a proven help in time of trouble— more than enough and always available whenever I need you” (TPT). While I can point to individual times in my life where I wish God would have answered my prayers the way I wanted Him to, the consistency of His character across millennia is that He is a safe place for us to run to in times of need. He does answer when we need Him most, and He does not abandon us. He is available for us to call out to despite the things we’ve done because when He looks at us, He’s not looking for our goodness in order to be available. His relationship with us is not about what you’ve done or your works. You are His child, redeemed by the death of His son, and like a good father, He’s there for you when you need Him.

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Responding To Distress

If you were to take a piece of pottery and a stick of butter into the oven, you’d get two different results. While the pottery would harden, the butter would melt. Even though it’s the same fire, things react differently to it. The same goes for us. Each one of us go through the fires of tribulations and troubles here on earth. Not one of us are exempt from it, but we each respond differently. Even though we have the same physical properties, those fires produce different results in us.

For me, those fires nearly wiped me off the earth. They destroyed everything in my life and left me with nothing. My response was to shut down and check out. I thought, “If I don’t have anything left to live for, why should I live?” Other people who have been through similar fires used it as fuel to get stronger, tougher, and better. They didn’t let it get the best of them. I don’t know that there’s a right or wrong way when it comes to how you respond to distress in your life except when it comes to your spiritual life.

Fires, tribulation and distress should push us closer to God, not away. Those are really the only two options spiritually. You can run to God and become totally dependent on Him or you can turn your back on Him wondering why He let this happen to you. 2 Corinthians 7:10 says, “Distress that drives us to God does that (produces all gain, not loss). It turns us around. It gets us back in the way of salvation. We never regret that kind of pain. But those who let distress drive them away from God are full of regrets, end up on a deathbed of regrets” (MSG).

In my life, the distress pushed me toward God in the end. It wasn’t until I had nothing left that I told God, “I give up. I can’t do this without you.” That moment sparked a change. Life didn’t get better immediately and not everything was restored right then. It took years, but God has been faithful to me and I don’t regret the pain I went through because it caused me to run back to God. I started off like that butter in the fire, but ended up like the pottery. You can too. Whatever you’re going through, it’s not too late to let it push you to God instead of away.

Photo by Gene Chauvin

Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.

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