Wednesday, July 28, 2010

I Am Never Letting Go!

In the last couple of days we have looked at "valley of the shadow of death" experiences, God's response and how to deal with a soul that refuses to respond. Some valleys are worse than others and take a great deal more effort in how we respond to it. My "valley" experience is being separated from five of my children who mean more than the world to me. Their departure to another province has provoked a greater emotional response than I had imagined possible, as my heart lays in ruins. This is why I have sought comfort in the Word because I have found there is no other comfort that can satisfy. The last part of this grief process I want us to consider is the under-current that must run constantly through our lives, in every experience. Without this we will find ourselves thrown against the rocks with every storm, every valley, we enter. The writer of Hebrews wrote:

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1)

Our hope is not like the hope of this world. The world hopes for things that are a possibility. People hope to win the lottery and retire. Students hope to get hired in their chosen profession. Parents hope their children will be successful. This hope describes is a longing, a desire for things that might be, that are a possibility if all the conditions are right. It is a hope that is based on wishful thinking and luck instead of based on anything solid. This is not the hope of which we speak today. Our hope is based on the relationship we have with Jesus Christ. This hope is part of our faith which is comprised of surety and certainty. My hope is not based on a possibility but instead it describes a longing to possess what has already been promised and guaranteed to me.

Hope is best described as a longing in the same sense as longing for supper as the aroma fills the house. Perhaps children would describe it as the excited anticipation of Christmas morning. My hope is the return of Jesus Christ, when all of his promises will be fulfilled in me. This is when the plan will be made complete, when all the final pieces fall in place, when everything is restored and renewed. It is this hope that provoked the Apostle Paul to write:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
   "For your sake we face death all day long;
      we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Romans 8:35-39)

Read it again:

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1)

Genuine faith, which can also be described as trust, cannot disappear on storming days. If it is authentic then it rises up on these days and refuses to let go of the hope that is ours in Jesus. What good is faith if we only wave it on sunny days? It must shine all that much more brilliantly when the darkness closes in, so that despite the pain of the valley, we are able to declare God's love for us. In fact, it is with such declaration that the storms seem smaller, the darkness lighter, and the valley not so deep. Jesus Christ lives, he loves me, he died and rose again so that I could have life, he is preparing a place for us, and when it is ready he is coming back to take us to be with him, clothed in his glory and perfection.

However, there are people in the Church who will mistakenly teach us that we should never experience such valleys, that we can avoid all such pain. Respectfully I must say they are wrong. We have these valleys so we can feel deeply and so that we can grow and be strengthened in our faith. We do not like the valley's or the storms but they serve a purpose and it is for our good. James wrote:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)

It is wrong of us to deny what we are experiencing. I write to you today with a broken heart but I have decided to face these emotions straight on and I can see the things God is doing. I don't like this feeling and it is hard for me to face it in truthfulness, but I trust Jesus. I trust the Word when it tells me that he uses everything for my good. I trust the Word when it tells me that this testing of my faith will produce great things in me. It makes it easier to carry the pain of it.

In this process I have learned that I need to recognize the valleys and to trust that my Shepherd knows how to lead me out to those green pastures and quiet waters. I have learned that it takes an effort to get my eyes off of my sufferings and get them upwards. I have to speak to my soul and remind myself of my relationship with Jesus and to remember the joys of the past in this relationship. I have also learned that hope must permeate every fiber of my being and experiences. There is never any excuse good enough for setting aside the hope of my faith because it is my faith that will see me through every valley and storm. In this life there is only one thing I can ever be guaranteed; the love of the Father, the Son and the Spirit. So because this is true, I am able to trust the voice of the Shepherd who directs me through the valley with all its shadows. If I cannot trust him here then my faith has proven itself to have no value and know this not to be true because even in these things I love and trust my God.