Saturday, May 31, 2014

God of the low places

"In our relation to the immediate we touch upon the most distant." - Abraham Joshua Heschel 

Most "Christians" would agree that the blessings in their life are gifts from God that show his grace and love. These same people would also agree that the valleys in their life are the result of living in a sinful world, and that God will help us through so that we emerge on the other side as stronger versions of our former selves.

For years I agreed with this general philosophy of joy and pain, thanking God for his blessings and striving to endure through difficult times. After the 7th year of chronic illness and 3rd year of severe depression though, I began to question these assumptions about God. After all, I follow Him. I serve him, teach bible classes, invest in younger guys, strive to live a loving and blameless life. Despite all my striving though, I found myself more messed up and feeling further from God than I cared to be. 

Suddenly I questioned my salvation, my effectiveness in ministry, my worth, my purpose. Everything I had felt was so certain was now shattered. Depression ruined the mind that was once so outgoing, illness ruined the hands that were once so worshipful. 

Yet in this circumstance, I am able to see God most clearly. The pure forms and expressions of his character. His goodness and mercy, his companionship. 

And through this I am forced to worship God - yet not the image of God propagated by legalism and guilt. The one, true God. 
There is something about being helpless on your face before your Creator that makes you rethink your entire existence. Suddenly a new question emerges.

What if the valleys in our lives are grace gifts from God?

Yet oh so gracious.
How else can a man learn to depend completely on God, aside from control being completely wrenched from his hands? 

I would rather be stuck in a valley that God gave me, rather than stuck in a valley of my own circumstance. Even if painful, I would at least be in the epicenter of God's sovereignty. I think of the incredible faith that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego demonstrated when they went through the flames of persecution in the book of Daniel. Rather than giving them strength or encouraging them, God chose to go through the fire with them himself. 

I wonder at times, as David did in the Psalms, where God is in the low places. Thank God though, that not only is He powerful over the valleys, but He walks through them with us. 

As we experience the valleys we grow, our faith grows, our mind grows, our dependence on God grows. We are forced to acknowledge that only God himself has power over our circumstances.

Our prayer is not for us to have the strength to endure, but for us to realize that we DON'T have the strength. I can do all things through CHRIST who strengthens me, not by my own ability.

This is the application of what it means to have faith like a child. We completely let go, and allow God to do what only He can do. So what if we end up with a few scars? Scars are reminders that there was a struggle, and that there was healing. 

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