Shoes! Aren’t they a girl’s best friend? After diamonds, of course. It seems like shoes were my teenage daughters’ favorite accessory. Got to have a pair of shoes for every outfit and every occasion.
But, you know, we don’t need a special pair of shoes in our walk with God. We could wear the same pair of shoes all our lives and the LORD could make it where they never wear out, just like He did for the Israelites in the desert for forty years. Not many of us, especially women, would like that, though, would we?
But our walk with God is a lifetime long. It’s a process, it’s a journey; sometimes very difficult, sometimes very rewarding, but often just somewhere in between.
We can never get to a point in our lives and say, “Alright! I’m finally there! I’ve reached where I need to be, I’ve learned all I need to learn. I’ve finished the course set before me, completed my mission, run the good race. Now I can just relax and do my own thing.”
There’s been many a time when I’ve wanted to say that, especially after a particularly long arduous trek through what felt like the ‘Valley of the Shadow of Death.’ Almost a decade ago in the months after my mother’s death from pancreatic cancer, I went through a physically, emotionally, and spiritually incapacitating valley of grief that exacerbated my fibromyalgia and depression.
Another valley time that was very difficult for our family was when my oldest daughter got pregnant in her senior year of high school. It was the end of all my dreams for her future. We had spent many months planning and implementing her learning and volunteer experiences to increase her chances of getting into the college program that she indicated she wanted to pursue, all thrown away in an instant with the revelation of her news.
My husband and I felt like failures as Christian parents. We had failed to instill in her the need for purity and the benefits of waiting until marriage. Now, long before we were ready, we were faced with the idea of being grandparents and the thought of knowing how much more of a struggle her life would be because of her decision. At the time, it was very difficult for us to have faith that God was still in control. We couldn’t see the big picture or see how he could bring good out of this situation. We wondered how we had failed, after all our attempts to follow and obey God’s Word to a T.
Years later, of course, we see what a blessing that child (and the one that followed two and a half years later) really is in our lives and how we can be a blessing in their lives. Who knows what future God has planned for them? One of them may be the next Martin Luther King, Jr or Nelson Mandela or Mother Teresa or…
It’s in the valleys I hear myself saying, “Life is too hard and I just don’t want to do it anymore.”
But it’s during those seemingly endless seasons of hardship that I find dredging up a dim memory of a “Garden of Eden” time in my life can provide just enough of a glimmer of hope to keep me pushing forward with the very little strength I have left.
By “Garden of Eden” I’m not talking about Eve giving in to the temptation to partake of the forbidden fruit so cunningly presented to her by Satan. No, I’m talking about the times so aptly sung about in the old hymn “In the Garden” where I’m so close to the LORD it feels like “He walks with me, and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own.”
The closeness is exhilarating and yet overwhelming, uplifting and yet humbling. Have you been there yet?
Those are the times when it doesn’t matter what shoes we’re wearing because we’re probably going to want to take them off in the presence of a Holy God anyway. Those are the times when people aren’t going to notice what’s on our feet, but they’ll probably ask, “What’s that new makeup you’re wearing?” (that’s actually happened to me!). Like Moses, we’ll be glowing from being in the LORD’s presence. There’s no “extreme makeover” quite like it!
Those mountaintop experiences are great but there are usually valleys in between or else we wouldn’t recognize them as mountaintops, would we?
Those times in the valleys, we often don’t understand why things happen the way they do but we have to have faith that our infinite, omniscient God knows better than we do because he can see the big picture and we can’t. We have to believe that he can bring something good out of any situation if we’ll keep our eyes on him. These are the times we need to seek the support and prayers of fellow believers, too.
No matter how hard it gets or how tired we are of trying, it’s so important to stick with it and be purposeful about developing and improving our relationship with the Lord through prayer, Bible reading, and fellowship with other believers.
If we keep our eyes on him, not our problems, we will always be looking up! He will give us the strength we need to get through anything that comes our way.
Isaiah 40:28-31: “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary and young men stumble and fall, but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
If you’re going through a valley now, don’t go it alone. Reach out to a trusted friend, a prayer group, a local church, even your doctor if it’s serious enough that you need medical intervention. Everyone experiences valleys in their life, even though we may not want to admit it. Different people handle things in different ways, but if you’re struggling, know you’re not alone.
Leave me a comment if there’s something you’d like prayer for…