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July 10, 2013

The Valley

The older I get the more I have to grapple with the painful reality that some stories don’t turn out the way I want them to.  In my youth, all stories were viewed through the rose colored glasses of hopeful expectation for fairy tale endings in this lifetime.  And since I am a Christian, the expectation went something like: “If I pray diligently enough and believe hard enough about the situation, everything will turn out alright in the end.”  But I have learned that Monday morning still comes.  Some marriages still end in divorce.  Some sicknesses are not healed.  Some friendships are irrevocably torn.  Savings go up in smoke and financial security is gone forever.

That’s why Oswald Chambers’ words this morning were so helpful:

“Life is not as idle ore,
But iron dug from central gloom,
And batter’d by the shocks of doom
To shape and use.”

“God has to take us into the valley, and put us through fires and floods to batter us into shape, until we get to the place where He can trust us with the veritable reality….Let Him put you on His wheel and whirl you as He likes, and as sure as God is God and you are you, you will turn out exactly in accordance with the vision.” My Utmost for His Highest, “Vision and Reality,” July 6th

The ending to the story might not turn out exactly as I thought or as I prayed it would.  The suffering of the people of God might be great in and around me.  But if I were to remain as I was with my rose-colored glasses, what use would I be, really, for the Kingdom of God?  I must take off my glasses and take hold of the Hand of the One who guides me through the valley, trusting that He sees the way, even when I do not.  And He is the One who holds the ending to all stories.  Even the darkest ones.  Things may not turn out as I wish they would, but He uses each “shock of doom” and “central gloom” to shape for us an eternal weight of glory that will far outweigh our present sufferings.

That statement in and of itself might sound as far-fetched as any fairy-tale, but it’s true.  One look at Calvary tells me so.  “For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers” (Romans 8:29).  If God used the sufferings of Christ to bring ultimate good and glory to His Name, then my suffering will be used as well.  To tell the story.  To praise His Name.  To let those around me know that the God I serve is greater than my circumstances.  No matter the ending to my story.  Or yours.

So let the batterings of God today shape you into a weapon, a tool to be used in the lives of others to point to the goodness and sufficiency of God in the depths of the valley, no matter the apparent ending to the story.  For the fairy tale is coming: “So we do not lose heart.  Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (II Corinthians 4:16-18).