Over the years as a Christian and as a pastor, there have been seasons of difficult, painful valleys. And these days have been one of those seasons.
The valley is a difficult place to be. Yet, through the years, I’ve learned that God often speaks the most clearly in the valley. (Or maybe we are most likely to hear Him speak here.)
Through the years, I’ve jotted down truths to sustain in the valleys:
1. Make prayer a priority.
Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;—Ephesians 6:18
When you’re grieving and when those you love are grieving, the two most natural responses are to do something (anything!) and/or talk about the problem. The most godly, needful thing to do is to pray.
Of course, do help in tangible ways. Sympathy cards, groceries, meals—it all speaks volumes of care. But the greatest needs we face in the valley can only be met by God—pray for God’s grace, and pray for those you love.
2. Spend time in God’s Word.
My soul melteth for heaviness: strengthen thou me according unto thy word.—Psalm 119:28
Personally grieving while at the same time ministering to a grieving family and church family is difficult. I’m waking up too early every morning and spending full days loving, counseling, and bearing burdens. I don’t have time right now for anything “extra.” But time with God is not “extra”; it is essential. And if there was ever a time that it is more essential than others, it is now.
When you’re hurting and when you’re trying to comfort others who are hurting, you need the strength that comes through God’s Word.
3. Wait on the Lord.
Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.—Psalm 27:14
But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.—Job 23:10
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. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.—James 1:3–5
Suffering reminds us of our inability to control our lives. Trust God’s sovereignty. When you can’t trace His hand, trust His heart. Be willing to trust Him with patience, and ask Him for His wisdom.
4. Believe God’s promises.
For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.—2 Corinthians 1:20
What can sustain us in the valley? The eternal, unchanging promises of God’s Word—all made by a God who cannot lie. Read His promises; memorize them; meditate on them; cling to them.
5. Humble yourself.
Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:—1 Peter 5:6
Trials remind us how small we are and how much we need God. Humble yourself before Him, and allow Him to refine your heart in the valley.
6. Receive God’s grace.
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.—2 Corinthians 12:9
Don’t try to make it through the valley in your strength. God’s grace is sufficient—receive it.
7. Guard your mind.
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.—Philippians 4:8
Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.—Isaiah 26:3
In any situation—particularly one of mind-numbing tragedy—there are so many variables we will not and cannot know. Fix your mind and your heart on God’s goodness and His truth.
Remember, the devil is “a liar, and the father of it” (John 8:44). He tries to use these seasons to cause us to question every God-given value and every promise of God.
8. Guard your tongue.
A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards.—Proverbs 29:11
Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.—Proverbs 18:21
How easy it is when we’re hurting to speak words that in turn hurt others. Often people with previous hurts and paradigms will speak out in hurtful moments and only cause further hurt and difficulty. Words—spoken, written, and electronic—linger in hearts. Be careful, be loving, be encouraging.
9. Seek counsel.
Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water; but a man of understanding will draw it out.—Proverbs 20:5
Some of the most vital crossroads occur in the valley. Seek the wise counsel of godly Christians in these dark times. For my part this week, I’ve been deeply thankful for the company and counsel of Dr. Don Sisk, a man who walks in the Spirit and loves God’s people. We’ve invited a Christian counselor to speak to our staff next week to encourage them and to talk through their needs in the valley. We recently hired a counselor here at our church who has an elective class on Thursday evenings that provides biblical grief counseling. Wise, spiritual, biblical counsel is vital. Seek out godly, mature Christians, and ask for their counsel.
10. Bear the burdens of others.
Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.—Galatians 6:2
In the midst of your suffering, remember that others are hurting too. Allow your sorrow to increase your sensitivity to reach out and comfort others.
11. Rest in God’s presence.
That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;—Philippians 3:10
Peace is not found in the absence of trouble but in the presence of Christ. And Christ’s presence is known more intimately in trials than in any other time. Philippians 3:10 refers to this as “the fellowship of his sufferings.” Seek refuge in the Lord, and rest in the promises of His presence.
12. Never be ashamed of Christ or His gospel.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.—Romans 1:16
Sometimes when tragedies occur in the lives of Christians, haters of the gospel will criticize our faith. Remember, we still serve the God who sent His only begotten Son to die on the cross for our sins, who forgave Peter when he denied Him, and whose mercy endures forever.
13. Walk in the Spirit.
And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;—John 14:16
If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.—Galatians 5:25
In the midst of the valley, there are 1,001 responses pulling our hearts and minds. We could be worried, hopeless, or critical. The only safe response, however, is to walk in the Spirit. The Holy Spirit—our resident Comforter—will lead, guide, and comfort us all as we need it. Yield to Him, and seek His leadership.
The darkest seasons of life are when we most need the grace and leadership of the Lord and the promises of His Word. In recent days, I’ve been observing the Lord restoring grace to a family we all love. May we all grow in His grace as well.
His grace is sufficient—in the valley and in all other seasons of life.