I used to wonder why God didn’t protect his children from bad things. I had always been taught that the devil caused all the havoc in our lives; therefore, we had to pray really hard and confess positive thoughts (because that was true faith), and then God would deliver us. Consequently, it only left me confused and exhausted—worried that I hadn’t done enough to “fight” the devil back. Hardships come to us all. No one is exempt. They come as pain, sickness, death and losses. We can all fill in the blank with our own experiences.
Life is good and bad! In it we find joy and sadness. Christian or not, we have our ups and downs. However, it’s our outlook that makes all the difference. Many people doubt God based on the troubles they face. They assume if there was a God he would/should prevent all hardships, and because there is so much suffering in the world, a) He must not exist, or b) He isn’t a loving God. The truth is, God sees. When the Israelites labored under the burdens of the Egyptians, the Lord herd and saw “I have surely seen the affliction of My people…and have given heed to their cry…I am aware of their sufferings, so I have come down to deliver them…” (Exodus 3:7-8, NASB) His ears are not deaf to our cries, nor are his eyes blind to our troubles. Our hardships don’t go unnoticed by God. His heart is moved with compassion. We are his and his hands are extended. Peter addressed the church concerning their sufferings, “After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you” (5:10). You will come out better than you went in.
The valleys of life are unavoidable. God will allow his children to go through difficulties (even though they seem unbearable at times), but one thing is certain—we never go alone. Never! God leads us down the paths of life; some are smooth and others bumpy and uncertain. It’s these rough paths that Satan lurks. He waits, seeking an opportunity to cause fear, worry and anxiety. Then leaving us in a state of confusion wondering, “God where are you?” When we cave into our fears, we cannot sense God’s peace and assume we are facing our trial alone. If our spiritual eyes were open, we would see this is further from the truth. Our gentle shepherd leads us down into the valleys of life (hand-in-hand). He is the one who guides and comforts us in the midst of them. We find this assurance in Psalm 23:3-4 “He refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (NIV). No matter how dark the valley before us is, we can rest assure, the Keeper of our souls is nearby.
Joseph suffered betrayal at the hands of his brothers, through the lies of his slave owners and consequently under the bondage of prison life—resulting in 13 painful years of his freedom being stripped from him. To Joseph, I’m sure it felt like a never ending valley. While in Potipher’s house, his Egyptian owner, we are told, “The Lord was with Joseph” (Genesis 39:2) and again, when he was wrongfully thrown into prison “The Lord was with him” (Genesis 39:21). Joseph’s suffering produced in him character, leadership and faithfulness. It was a long season and in the end he acknowledged it as God’s design (Genesis 50:20).
The valleys that we go through are not intended to cause fear, rather spiritual development. Hardships teach us lessons we would never otherwise learn. They carry us into situations we have feared to face. We read, “Endure hardships as discipline…God deals with us as sons” (Hebrews 12:7, NIV). Hardships are good for our spiritual character. They are never joyful, and always sorrowful. But once we come out of them, we reap fruits of righteousness. When Joseph came out of his hardship, he had been fully trained to become a leader. His bondage gave him opportunity he never would have had—to run a large household and even larger prison. God took Joseph’s valley experience and turned it into his greatest accomplishment. He wasn’t placed second in command over Egypt overnight. He had been strengthened and equipped over time. If we read on, “Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed” (Hebrews 12:12-13). During your trial, you will inevitably draw closer to God, not only finding strength, but also building character and endurance. Embrace the lessons learned and draw from the strength God offers to you during this season.
If you are in the middle of a hardship that seems too heavy to bear, lean on the arm of the Jesus, for he is right beside you. He never leaves you. He is holding your hand through it all. Know that is will not last forever. It is for a season and a time, and the fruit it will produce will far outweigh any sorrow it has caused.