Last night I heard a song that was one of my very favorites ten years or so ago when it first came out. You’ve no doubt heard it if you listen to Christian radio. Its message is one that sticks with you, especially if you’ve ever walked through a valley that’s of any size or length at all:
“What if your blessings come through raindrops? What if your healing comes through tears? What if a thousand sleepless nights is what it takes to know you’re near?”
I love this song and it challenges me to think through some passing thoughts I’ve had in recent years and settle them in my heart. One pressing question that lingers in the back of my mind is a simple yet profound one: How much is too much? Where is the line drawn? Is there a point that I could ever reach that would cause me to give up? What about you?
There’s this heretical idea being taught by some in the Christian world that when you come to Christ you’ll always have everything you want, and you’ll never experience any pain or heartache. You’ll be “healthy, wealthy, and wise” because, after all, God would never allow one of His children to experience hurt and suffering, right?
Have you ever heard the story of Job? There’s never been a more righteous, godly man on this earth (except Jesus Christ, speaking of suffering!) yet God allowed Job to suffer and, lose basically everything he had in the world. He lost his entire family, all but his wife, who was full of good advice by the way (“just curse God and die, she told him . . . ”). He saw his livestock, his living, his children and his entire empire crumble within a matter of moments right before his eyes. God allowed it. And Job never reached that line of cursing him.
Paul had a great deal to say about hurting in this life. As a matter of fact, Paul said that through all of his suffering and hardship he “learned to be content in whatever state” he was in. Whether he had an abundance or lived tiny meal to tiny meal, whether he was roaming about preaching the gospel and establishing churches or sequestered in a small, damp, cold dungeon jail cell, he would be content and give praise where praise was due. Even as he was being led to the gallows to literally lose his head for Christ, Paul never reached that “line.”
So what about us? How much is too much for us? It’s sad to say, but many of us complain about the “cross we bear” already, yet we’ve come nowhere near the suffering or heartache of many of our patriarchs in the faith. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” doesn’t just apply to every mountaintop God allows us to climb – it works in the valleys too.
There are some inescapable truths that come to light when we’re in the valley.
First, what we truly believe about God is put to the test.
Second, whether we serve Him for our glory and renown or His is brought to the surface.
Third: When you’re in the valley, what you believe about heaven becomes weaker or stronger – there’s no middle ground. The truth is simple: No matter what we face in this life, we simply aren’t home yet.
You see, in Job’s story on the last page of the last chapter, God blessed Job exponentially and restored everything. And I believe with all my heart that on the last page of the last chapter of your life and my life, He’ll do the same. Why do I believe that? Because I’ve read the end of the Book – We win.