As much as I have agonized, cried, examined myself for disobedience to God, felt like I was of no use to God or anyone else, and in general thought almost constantly about this current longest, darkest, gloomiest valley I have ever walked through, I have not completely lost faith in God. Although, I confess that I have come very close to it and even felt like He had abandoned me. I had no peace, no joy, and no incentive to do anything. It was then, while reading lots of the Psalms seeking comfort, that I ran across Psalm 31:22 where David confesses his fear of having been cut off from God’s sight: “As for me, I said in my alarm, “I am cut off from before Your eyes”; It is the last part of that verse that sparked so much meditation, prayer, and study on my part though: “Nevertheless You heard the voice of my supplications when I cried to You.” (NASB) I realized from those words that there is hope for joy, peace and incentive to be restored. And the proof of that is that I am writing this article now.
The idea of King David feeling the same way I was feeling, yet having had the confidence that he had not been isolated from his God, gave me a little sliver of hope, enough to just hold on. So I prayed…complaining…again. I wasn’t really expecting an answer but this was one of those times when God answered so plainly it was almost audible. I grabbed the pen and paper beside me and transcribed our short conversation as it occurred on 14 June 2018. I complained, “Father, why did you make me wake up alive again this morning?”
To my surprise He said, “Because you have a purpose.”
“And what is that purpose?”
“First you must regain your stability in Me. You are not able to carry out that purpose until then.”
“How do I do that?”
“I will guide you – follow Me.”
I was very happy to hear He had confidence in my ability to “follow” Him. I certainly felt like I had failed miserably at it because of the suffering I was, and still am, enduring. Two and a half months later I told my heavenly Father that I am willing to suffer for the sake of Christ (Philippians 1:29) but that I could not see how this trial was suffering for His sake, for the sake of the gospel of Christ (2 Timothy 1:8), or even for the sake of righteousness (1 Peter 3:14). He cleared this up for me saying: “Do you see how you have drawn much closer to Me again in recent months because of this trial? We have been enjoying a renewed relationship, better than ever before. And now you are facing criticism, disdain and disbelief of your relationship with Me. Cling to Me and as you asked this morning, I will lead you through this and we together will overcome rather than be overcome. Endure with perseverance and patience my child – victory is coming.”
Here it is another month and a half later and this ordeal is still not over. In its fourth year now, my deep dark valley still exists. The intensity of the conflict has subsided and what remains is like a never ending toothache – it’s always there and hurts worse at some times than others. Sometimes I find myself running low on the hope of deliverance from this situation and read certain scriptures over and over again so I don’t slip back down into that deepest darkest part of my valley where I’ve spent way too many months already.
Psalm 6:10 (CJB) “Adonai has heard my pleading, Adonai will accept my prayer.”
Psalm 71:20 (CJB) “You have made me see much trouble and hardship, but you will revive me again and bring me up from the depths of the earth.”
Psalm 37:5-6 (CJB) “Commit your way to Adonai; trust in him, and he will act. He will make your vindication shine forth like light, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.”
I am finally at peace again. That in itself is a victory but there will be complete victory when God has led me all the way through this valley, so for now I keep a few particular thoughts in mind about the peace God gives.
John 14:27 (NASB) “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”
Isaiah 26:3 (NASB) “The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, Because he trusts in You.
Psalm 34:14 “Depart from evil and do good; Seek peace and pursue it.”
Psalm 119:165 (NASB) “Those who love Your law have great peace, And nothing causes them to stumble.”
Romans 8:6 (NASB) “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace,”
Philippians 4:6-7 (NASB) “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
He did not just zap me out of the valley and set me on a mountaintop. Instead He has led me, showing me where to step and where to grab hold with my hands, little by little up toward the top of this valley. And as He does He is teaching me much about actually applying His Word to real life.
It is obvious from these scripture passages that our peace comes from God. As J. N. Figgis said, “If the basis of peace is God, the secret of peace is trust.” Even though some of us have a more difficult time trusting than others do, we cannot ignore God’s own Word in our pursuit of this most sought after element of life.
Psalm 62:8 (NASB) “Trust in Him at all times, O people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.
Psalm 91:1-2 (NASB) “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!”
Psalm 125:1 (NASB) “Those who trust in the Lord Are as Mount Zion, which cannot be moved but abides forever.”
Jeremiah 17:7-8 (NASB) “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord And whose trust is the Lord. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, That extends its roots by a stream And will not fear when the heat comes; But its leaves will be green, And it will not be anxious in a year of drought Nor cease to yield fruit.”
Knowing we are to pursue peace is the easy part – following through is much more difficult. How does one attain this peace? Since the Bible mentions peace 429 times in the King James Version, we can expect to find the answer there. And the answer is there. Unfortunately it isn’t as easy as going to the store and buying it off a shelf. It takes effort and practice.
For instance, look at Colossians 3:15: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.” (NASB) In order to “let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts” which is something that as we pursue living as God’s children, we are going to have to do some changing to achieve. Even the “best” of us have spent years carrying on our lives without a thought to whether or not we were making godly decisions before we accepted His gift of salvation and pursued life as He wants us to live. And in all honesty, how “thankful” were we – aside from Thanksgiving Day? Thankfulness is something we still tend to forget after coming to Christ. Maybe that’s why we are told so often in the scriptures to be thankful or to give thanks.
Another difficult characteristic to develop is to practice restraint, especially with our tongue. James 1:19 (NASB) “This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger;” Our culture today makes this harder yet since we seem to idolize “self-expression.” We don’t need to unload everything we think.
It isn’t difficult to pick out the “how” of pursuing peace in these scriptures, but it still takes effort and practice to accomplish in our lives.
2 Timothy 2:22 “Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” (NASB)
2 Corinthians 13:11 (NASB) “Finally, brethren, rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.”
2 Peter 3:14 (NASB) “Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless,”
Sometime in each of our lives we will experience the sorrow that comes from being treated unfairly or taken for granted. Personally, I can say it has been very painful to have evil returned for good and to have given of myself and receive wounds in return. When we suffer unjustly, we need to remember that no one has ever been wronged and had their rights ignored more than Jesus. Yet He left us His own example to follow.
Human nature makes it hard to simply “surrender” a problem to anyone – even God – and not keep fretting about it but we have to commit to God the injustice we've suffered. 1 Peter 2:23 (NASB) “and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously;” Entrusting oneself to God means looking to Him to deal with the injustice rather than trying to vindicate ourselves. Although I know this in my mind, I still have trouble leaving it all in His hands at times. 1 Peter 2:19 (CJB) “For it is a grace when someone, because he is mindful of God, bears up under the pain of undeserved punishment.”
1 Peter 3:10-11 (NASB) For, “The one who desires life, to love and see good days, must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit. He must turn away from evil and do good; He must seek peace and pursue it.” It appears in this passage that Peter is saying that sometimes peace won’t be easy to find when he uses the word “seek” and warns us that it may be far off in the distance when he tells us to “pursue” it. We should prepare for a long journey, I think.
The most basic recipe for seeking and pursuing our peace with God, and the result of doing so are told by Paul in Philippians 4:8-9 (ESV) “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”
Bottom line: It is up to us, ourselves, to seek, pursue and hold on to peace like we will never let it go. We can’t blame God if we lose our peace: Isaiah 54:10 (NASB) “For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, But My lovingkindness will not be removed from you, And My covenant of peace will not be shaken,” Says the Lord who has compassion on you.”