I am about to go speak to a group of people that I have grown to love over the past year. It has been a unique privilege to stand before these people and open up the Word of God to try to help them deal with their own mental and emotional difficulties. I really feel like I am making an impact in some of their lives as I have watched changes taking place week by week. Not to mention the fact that they really make me feel good, but they do. Last week they told me that they liked me better than watching television.
Anyway, I am about to go speak to this group of adults, and I thought I would share with you what I am going to share with them today. For some reason, God has placed this on my heart not only for them but also for some of you who might be reading this. Quite often, as Christians, we find ourselves experiencing life in the valleys. What I mean by that is we don’t always have apple pie and sunshine with balloons floating by while we take rides on the backs of ponies. In other words, sometimes life is hard. Depressing. Discouraging. And have you ever noticed that when you are right smack dab in the middle of one of these valley experiences, some well-meaning Christian brother or sister will come along and say something like this: “God will never put more on you than you can handle.”
You see, I know this is true because I have been this person before. Actually, I have been on both sides of this conversation before. I have been the giver of this “sage” advice, and I have been the recipient as well. Even while you are saying the words, I believe, you feel a twinge of guilt because deep down you know it isn’t true. You’ve been there. You know that there are times when things happen and you cannot handle them. Remember Gideon? How about Moses? Even Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane? Jesus said, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death….” Sometimes God does allow things to happen that are too much for us to handle because it is in those moments that we are most teachable.
I have discovered that when I am having a mountaintop experience where I am eating my apple pie on the most beautiful of days while riding my pony holding on to my balloons that I am only interested in enjoying the experience. I don’t want to learn any lessons. All is well. And in our arrogance, we forget two very important things. First, we need God’s presence. As Christians, we cannot live the victorious life without His presence, but still we try as long as things are going well for us. And then it happens. Just like it did for the people of God in the Old Testament. We start believing that we deserve the good things — that we are responsible for creating all the good things. And suddenly, in the midst of our arrogance, God has to send a gentle reminder.
But what about those times when we are not arrogant, when we are seeking Him and serving Him and loving people? What about those times when we are giving everything we can, and we still find ourselves in the valleys? God, why won’t you heal my mother from this disease? God, why won’t you deliver me from this depression? God, why…? You see, sometimes God wants us not only to know His presence, but also He wants us to know His power. Sometimes we need to recognize that it is in our moments of weakness and times of distress that He chooses to act to show the world how powerful He is. Just like the Apostle Paul. If ever there were a man who deserved to be delivered from His thorn in the flesh, it was Paul. And through three agonizing seasons of prayer, the apostle asked God to set him free. And God said, “No, my child. Instead, let me pour out my grace on you. Let me show you how I can take your pain, your weakness, your distress, your hardships, even your life and demonstrate true strength.”
Yep, I’ve been there. And I will tell you that I would rather be in the valley experiencing God’s presence and His power than on the mountaintop without Him. How about you?