I wrote the outline of this message on an index card a couple of years ago intending to one day write a sermon on it, and someday I will, but for now I want you to hear it in this moment. No matter what struggle you are coming up against or what pain you are currently walking through, please know that there is always hope. Hope in the Creator of the world.
There is a great song by Third Day called, “Mountain of God” with probably one of the most real and hopeful messages in it–in order to get where we need to be, we have to walk through struggle. One of my favorite lines goes, “Now I realize the truth, that I must go through the valley, to stand upon the mountain of God.” It takes walking through the daily ups and downs of this life to truly develop into the Sons and Daughter’s we are to be. Admittedly that line also makes me kind of frustrated because I want my life to be easy. But, as most everyone knows (and can probably attest to personally), this life is not easy. I think especially since I really started to pursue a walk with Christ I have seen pain and heartache come in and intensify. And it has been hard. I haven’t had it as hard as some of you, though, and I’m thankful to know such courageous and strong fighters in my life. This one is to encourage you.
I love mountains with high peaks that I can stare up at and get dizzy from. I love deep valleys with beautiful vastness that seem to stretch on for forever. I love nature itself and how I can see God in it all. God is such an amazing God and to explore His creation is one of the greatest joys I find in this life. Psalm 148 basically sums up how I feel about creation–it ALL points to the Creator, Himself–and to have the opportunity to catch a glimpse of my Creator in His mountains is amazing.
Spiritually speaking, I definitely love the mountain peaks that I find myself on in my life. When everything is going right and the seas are calm, I like that kind of peace.
–Sometimes I think I get too comfortable in that place, though, and start to think that “Seth” is the reason for my success or my joy. In those moments I need some sort of wake up to the Truth.–
But whoa, when it comes to the spiritual valleys in life, I don’t like those very much. Sadness isn’t fun, depression isn’t fun, regret isn’t fun, disgust isn’t fun. None of the “valley-like” things that I walk through are ever fun, I think that’s the very definition of them. We live in this sinful world, though, so hardship is all around us, and it shouldn’t surprise us, especially as Christians. Death itself is one of the results of sin and it is humanity’s biggest fear. We race against the clock of our life continually trying to take enough pills to combat the latest trend that says we are going to die if we eat “this” or drink “that”. We are constantly bombarded with discouraging messages from the world because of this fear, and rightfully so… if we are talking on human terms. If I didn’t know where I was headed after I die I would be constantly worried, too.
But I do know where I’m going, and I know where you are going, too. The Bible makes it clear that either Heaven or hell is our destination after we die, but that the CHOICE is ours to make. Jesus conquered the cross and the grave and all of humanities bondage so that we can live in Heaven for eternity.
But not only that, He conquered those things so that we could live as Heaven-bound-beings RIGHT NOW! In this moment, our identity is nothing of this world, but of a child of the most high God. So in that sense, we have the authority to overcome anything that this dark world throws at us. As children of God we can walk around this life with “Child of God” as our identity, knowing that we can fight against our oppression from a place of victory!
But that doesn’t mean the valleys don’t suck, still. Turmoil is a real thing. God never said life would be pain free after we run to Him, I actually think the Bible points to the idea that there will be more hardship and trials after accepting Jesus. But the key there is that we have Him. And Jesus overcame everything, so certainly He will help us overcome our trials and help us withstand the attacks we go through. We have a friend that sticks closer to us than a brother, the Holy Spirit (Proverbs 18:24).
These valleys that we walk through are still going to be valleys, and they will still probably suck, but that doesn’t mean we have to just lay down and let those hard times win. As children of God we can operate in power–the power of the Holy Spirit that overcame death. So when trials come, it is not just a matter of perspective change, but of true belief and trust. Not to diminish or downplay the struggle at all, but to instead believe that no matter what is happening now or what will happen in the future, God is in control. And if He is in control, that means His promise to never walk away from us (Joshua 1:5) will be fulfilled. And if He will never walk away, that means He is with us in the hard times (1 Corinthians 10:13). And if He is with us in the hard times, that must mean there is a purpose to the struggle (James 1:2-4, 12). And if there is purpose in the struggle, it takes faith to trust that the purpose is for our good (Romans 8:27-29). It is all a continuous cycle of God’s plan to bring us to the place we are meant to be–fully restored. And if His purpose is for our good, then our faith increases as we recognize that the pain will come to pass and that we will be able to use the struggle to our advantage (Psalm 118)! See, I believe that one of the main reasons that we get to walk through turmoils is so that we (and those around us) can walk out of the other side of the valley with deeper faith and a rejuvenated spirit! The only way to strengthen muscles is to apply pressure and resistance. The same is true with all other area’s of life, especially with spiritual growth. If wisdom is our goal, then let us seek it out. If direction is our goal, then let us move towards it. If peace is our goal, then may we trust that it will come. Whatever we are lacking, God will bring to us. But in order to bring it to us, He will walk us through things, too. That is where our faith is able to increase. With whatever we are lacking, we must ask God to bring us to it.
—James 1:2-6 talks about viewing everything (trials and triumphs, alike) through a lens of joy. We can look at trials with joy because we know that it will increase our faith and our endurance, and in the end, it will bring about the change that we need and desire.—
The best way to move closer and closer to God is to actually move closer and closer to Him, and often times that doesn’t happen unless we are at our last straw and have nothing else left but faith. It is in the stress and the despair and the heartbreak (the testing of our faith) that we find the endurance to run with perseverance and the strength to have such joy in the hope and peace of God. God is always going to come through in the way that we need it, which often is not always the way we want it. But it takes faith–the stretching of how much you will continue to believe and hope in God–to continue to live boldly and joyfully amidst the trials.
I believe that the reason pain hurts so badly is because our capacity to know joy is so large. The reason the mountain peaks are so amazing is because we know how much of a journey it was to get there. We can look back at the valley (however deep) and claim victory over it. No matter how ugly the valley was to get through, when we are on the other side of it, we can look back and see beauty in it because of what it brought to us. We get to stand on top of that peak and know in the deepest part of us that it is only because of the strength of our God that we made it there, and then we get to praise Him for that. And not just a simple song of joy, but an everlasting worship of love and peace and wonder and humbleness and anticipation! Because, after all, God is with us through it all–the peaks and the valleys–and our song doesn’t just play when we are joyful and can see God working, but it also plays through the hard times when we don’t know what to do. However faint the song is, it is still a song, and it brings hope. God is still God. He is still right by our side.
Our Father is the definition of LOVE; when you feel unloved, run to Him, let Him embrace you, and praise Him.
Our Father is the definition of LOVE; when you feel loved, run to Him, let Him embrace you, and praise Him.
The song, “Hills and Valleys” by Tauren Wells has been my anthem for the past six months. It just pours out hope and truth.
“No matter what I have, Your grace is enough. No matter where I am, I’m standing in Your love. On the mountains I will bow my life to the One who set me there. In the valley I will lift my eyes to the One who sees me there.”
May that be our reminder every single day. Our God will come through and we will be healed, sometimes in this life, and sometimes in the next. Either way, against all hope we can continue to have hope and rest in the Creator of all things. No matter where we are at in life, high or low, God has His hand right there walking with us. He will never leave you, He promises.
stay hope filled and filled with joy.