“For you, O God, have tested us;
you have tried us as silver is tried.
You brought us into the net;
you laid a crushing burden on our backs;
you let men ride over our heads;
we went through fire and through water;
yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance” (Psalm 66:10-12).
Sometimes God puts us through trials where we must completely depend on him. He does this for our own good.
Someone once told me that mountaintops have spectacular views, but very little growth. In the valleys, that’s where the trees and the grass and the flowers grow and bloom.
And yet, valleys are what we consider “low points”in life, and we look forward to the mountain top experiences.
Even if we reflect upon the book of Acts and the early church, we pick up on a pattern:
God used persecution to grow the church.
He used pain, suffering, and hardships in order to increase the faith and strength of those first believers. Because they had to depend on God even when their friends, family members or even they had to face the ultimate price for believing in the deity and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
I heard on the radio yesterday a certain lie, a lie that is being taught everywhere around America these days with the popularity of the prosperity gospel and just our selfish American society.
It’s the lie that “God wants us to be happy.”
Doesn’t that sound nice?
And yet the Bible says in 2 Timothy that these lies were expected…
“For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear what they want to hear” (2 Timothy 4:3).
Because it “sounds nice” is exactly why my “this isn’t true” radar started flashing!
It’s a cop-out.
People want to say, “Oh, God loves us, and we can do whatever we want to do because he loves us. He wants us to be happy! So I have every right to do what I want to do to make me happy!”
Do you see the problem with this line of thought?
One word with one little letter.
“I . . . “
This is why people search for mountaintop experiences.
This is why people go to church camp or a revival or a retreat and “feel spiritual” about Jesus for a day or week and then go back to business as usual.
No life change, just a spiritual high.
And I think this is why one of God’s favorite tools in his toolbox is valleys.
Not because he is mean or cruel, but because he promises to be our refuge, our strength, our deliverer, our comfort and peace when our lives feel like they are falling apart.
He uses hard times because he keeps his promises, and we grow, real life-changing growth, when we do.
Don’t believe me?
I bet Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s perspective on life and God changed drastically when God literally showed up in the flames to where they weren’t even a tad scorched!
I bet Daniel praised God even more after being thrown into a lion’s den … and wasn’t their supper!
I bet Job’s perspective changed when he lost everything the world says is valuable, was left with a wife who told him to curse God and die, and was just kind of berated by his three friends for 20 chapters then told to repent of his sins.
Yet Job didn’t lose his faith. And he was able to literally hear the voice of God and be blessed tenfold afterwards.
I bet Esther’s life changed when she faced the total annihilation of her people and the prospect of death if she approached her husband. Yet God showed up, and the Israelites were not wiped out.
I bet Moses’s life was changed forever when he spoke to God from a bush that was on fire and did not burn
when the sea was split in half while Egyptians wanted their heads
when water came from a rock
when their clothes did not wear out in a desert
when bread fell from the sky and quail rained down in flocks of fresh meat
I bet his life changed when he saw the literal finger of God inscribe the ten commandments
when he hid in the cleft of a rock while glimpsing God’s glory from the back
when God spoke to him in the tabernacle as a pillar of fire or a cloud.
I bet Elijah’s life changed when he was running away from the evil queen Jezebel and encountered God, this time on an actual mountaintop. But God didn’t show up in the earthquake … or in the fire … or in the storm … but in a soft whisper.
I bet the apostle John’s life changed when the Roman Empire tried and failed to put him to death by burning oil then exiled him to Patmos. He was separated from loved ones, and yet God literally had a revelation planned for him.
The Bible is flooded with examples of people who wouldn’t have been described as “happy,” and yet they are heroes of the faith!
So if our biblical examples are people who faced all sorts of challenges and hardships, why do we think God should give us a pass?
Yes, he wants us to experience peace and joy, but those feelings are different from happiness; they are not circumstantial or based on the whims of fickle emotions.
They are based on knowing that God gives rest to the weary and having faith that one day, one day, Jesus is coming back and we have that hope for an eternity of light free of earthly sorrows.
Because in reality, living on earth is just a massive valley… And we are all looking forward to the mountaintop experience that heaven will be.