I am going to stray from Nehemiah on this blog and talk about a subject the Lord put on my heart this morning. My hope is, although a tough subject for some, I can help us change our perspective a little and give someone hope who is walking through the valley of the shadow of death.
We all go through tough times, but our experience is often dictated by our perception. What do I mean? You can walk through the experience feeling like it is hell. Your emotions and your ability to learn will follow; your brain will record the experience from that vantage point, risking a hardening of the heart. Conversely, you can seek the depths of God through the valley experiences and allow them to shape and form who you are, essentially strengthening your character and ability to endure all the while maintaining a soft and pliable heart.
Many of us are overwhelmed by the challenges we encounter and our natural proclivity can be to enter survivalist patterns. Have you ever met a “doomsdayer” or a “prepper” who had a positive outlook on life? Why is that? In many cases they are preparing for the worst, not stopping along the way to reflect on the beauty of creation, and far more importantly not looking out further than death. When I say further than death, I mean into the eternal home we have in Christ. I heard it said by someone (I think John Bevere) that one characteristic of Americans is that our hope ends at death, even in the church. We do not look forward to the hope of eternity with our Father. We focus on a 70-80 year temporal perspective. In summary, we are short sighted and it effects our attitude negatively.
I want to give you a practical example of what I am talking about. About 12 years ago, Danielle and I found ourselves seeking the “American” dream. We had two vehicles and just moved into our nice country house with 3.5 acres and a large pole barn. It was a beautiful country setting and from a visual perspective was the epitome of relaxing. Pictures of sitting in the back yard, sipping lemonade and watching the sunset over the corn fields is exactly what I imagined. It was the exact opposite. We were laden in debt, drove a combined 150 miles per day, and Danielle was pregnant with Sidney (our second). This was the valley of the shadow of death for me; I was a giant ball of anxiety. In the end, we let the house go (stressing relationships), sold a car, Danielle quit her job, and we moved into an apartment about 13 miles from my work. We lived on $29k a year. Danielle would take me to work when I didn’t ride my bike, and we ate at home for every meal. Danielle and I learned how to be good stewards of what God had provided for us. We met amazing friends, became members at a Daybreak Church, whose leadership truly changed my life, and I went back to college to finish my degree. Out of the valley of the shadow of death came life and hope. I would not trade any of this for any worldly blessing we could imagine. Nothing was more valuable than walking through the valley with a positive perspective. Was it always easy? No! But my brain has recorded that event as significant personal growth…a blessing in disguise. Out of the ashes came life.
Jesus fully understood this. He was fully God, but fully human in His earthly home. He understood that through suffering, perfection came. Yes, he was already perfect, but perfection in this case is a kind of completion. Suffering completed Him and us.
“For it became him, for whom are all things, and through who are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the author of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” (Hebrews 2:10)
Jesus Christ is the Author of our Salvation! If he could walk through the valley of the shadow of death and come out on the other side bearing the scars of trial, yet healed and whole, how much more can we? He did it for us. He provided the path for life. He single-handedly offered us the path to walk through the valley of the shadow of death triumphantly. Now, do not give the enemy one single ounce of credit for the valley, because the valley was offered to bring you to full completion, not to give the enemy glory for stealing something that never belonged to you in the first place. Christ arose from the dead, so that we could be renewed. Hear Paul’s words…
“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2)
Change your view to one that is eternal, not temporal…focus on the lessons of completion through all seasons of life, NOT on the loss of worldly things.
Blessings in the name of Jesus Christ, the Author of our Salvation…