Grace For The Journey
One of my desires in communicating Bible truths is that I might be able to help others in their personal faith-walk with the Lord Jesus Christ. Over the last forty-eight years, I have been able to experience how amazing it is to walk closely with Jesus Christ.
He has truly become everything to me.
Yet, that becoming involved some intense seasons of Him leading me where I never would have volunteered to go. You likely have some similar seasons in your history of walking with the Lord Jesus. These times of trouble, difficulty, and overwhelming circumstances are commonly referred to by us as “the valley.”
In today’s post, I want to look at Psalm 42 and draw attention to four places in “the valley” that Jesus has often taken us though. Then, in tomorrow’s post, I will explain from this same Psalm 42 why God does this to each one of us who long to become like Jesus.
Before I share the remedy, let’s look together at what the Bible teaches us about the reality of that undesirable and mostly unpleasant walk into “the valley.”
1. The place of dryness – Psalm 42:1-2 says, “As a deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?”
It happens to all of us. We ride out the crest of that beautiful wave of nearness, intimacy, and communication with the Lord, only to have that same wave crash on the sun-bleached sands of dryness. We are doing all the same things we did when times were good and we were so blessed, but we now sense that loss of intensity, fruitfulness, and joy in our relationship with God. We try harder, but we sense the furthering of dryness.
Days, weeks, and maybe even months can go by and we cannot seem to reclaim those former days of presence-soaked moments with our beloved Lord and King. We pray longer, read more, serve harder, wait more determinedly … and yet we feel like the spiritual air we breathe is choked with the smog of this world. In this place in the valley, our weakness is apparent, our minds are distracted, and our fears that we have failed Him begin to arise within us.
Dryness is often the hardest place in “the valley” because, somewhere in this season, we find that none of our actions seem to be able to reverse our reality. So, we are forced to wait (Isaiah 40:31). And none of us really enjoys waiting.
2. The place of distance – Psalm 42:3-4 says, “My tears have been my food day and night, while they say continually say to me, ‘Where is your God?’ When I remember these things, I pour out my soul within me, for I used to go with the multitude; I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with the multitude that kept a pilgrim feast.”
I have found that the place of distance is almost always attached to the place of dryness. As a matter of fact, it seems to me that the sense of dryness is the mother of the sense of distance. Notice that the “panting after God” has now become the “crying before God.” Night and day tears have become frequent in this place. It is also in this place that the accuser’s voice arises and dares you to address the question of where your God has gone. In the place of distance, the memories of better days, closer communion, and even powerful times of worship seem to creep up in your mind and cause you to long for the past.
Here, you feel like your best days with Jesus are behind you. You wonder if you have sinned against Him, causing Him to walk away from you. Thinking back on former days of singing, connecting with believers, and being involved in joyful worship, you begin to wonder if any of it was real. The place of distance arouses fear and provokes an orphan spirit of questioning, where we wonder, “Where did God go? When is He coming back? Will it ever be good again?” Yes, this place of distance upon “the valley road” is a very troubling experience even for the best of God’s children.
3. The place of discouragement –Psalm 42:5-7 says, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance. O my God, my soul is cast down within me; therefore I will remember You from the land of the Jordan, and from the heights of Hermon, from the Hill Mizar. Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls; all Your waves and billows have gone over me.”
When “the valley” experiences bring us to the place of discouragement, all our dialogue turns internal. We start talking to ourselves and wrestling within about how we came to this undesirable place. Outwardly, we can still be going through the motions – attending church, serving in ministries, saying and doing all the proper Christian things. Inside our hearts, however, it’s a whirlwind of question marks and a feeling of being drowned by a downpour of frustration and fear.
The psalmist’s own words describe his sense of being drowned under a deluge of trouble from God. Did you catch that? In that place of discouragement we are no longer dry. We are drowning. We sense that we are about to go under and the only person we are talking with is ourselves. We look for solutions in the very source of the problem. And, not surprisingly, we find no suitable answers. It is here that we truly live in the sense of being cast down by life, by circumstances, and even by God. I have been here more than once. I deeply despise this place in the valley because it prevents me from experiencing the victory that I am theologically convinced is mine. I feel taunted by everything when I am stuck in that place of discouragement.
4. The place of desperation – Psalm 42:9-11 says, “I will say to God my rock, ‘Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?’ As with a breaking of my bones, my enemies reproach me, while they say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’ Why are you cast down, O may soul? And why are you disquieted within me…?
This, my friend, is where it gets raw. This is the place upon “the valley” experience where we become brutally honest with ourselves and our struggle. It is in this place that we must break off from all the dignified decorum that we learned in our “churchified” past. We want answers when we get to this part of the valley.
It is here that we need to realize that it is necessary to stand against the great accusation of Satan that leads us to scream with the psalmist, “Why have You forgotten me, God?!” It is vitally important during this part of the journey that we be honest about the sorrow and pain deep within us.
There is good news in the place of our desperation. This is always the last leg of your journey through the valley. It is in this place that we finally and fully become honest and transparent before the Father who has seemed so elusive and indifferent towards us as we journeyed through dryness, distance and discouragement.
We know we cannot get out of this place without His aid.
We struggle to stand on faith’s rock. Yet, within us we are moved to harmonize with Job when he cries out, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him … (Job 13:15a).
Our hearts know, we just nn to . . . shift.
Jesus has led us to the very place that He has designed for us. The place of our reduction. The place of our death. The place of our fullest and absolute surrender.
The next words out of the psalmist’s mouth are, “Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my salvation and my God.”
We begin to learn right there, at our lowest place in “the valley,” that desperation gives birth to hope.
I will unpack this hope and help that we desperately need from God in tomorrow’s blog.
This is God Word … This is Grace for your Journey
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”