A couple of years ago, I attended a marriage celebration for one of these friends, who had gotten married a few months earlier in another country. After returning home, she and her husband wanted to celebrate with those of us who hadn’t been able to attend the ceremony. I knew she had wanted a family for a long time, but things had never worked out. It had been a test for her, but she had continued to trust that God had a good plan for her life. After years of waiting, God had finally brought the right man into her life, and her into his. She now has a wonderful husband and a beautiful daughter. As hard as I know it was for her to wait, it was worth it.
Seeing her so happy, as well as thinking about other friends who have come through prolonged tests, helps me trust God when times are hard. Each of these friends passed through their own personal “valley of the shadow of death”1 that was full of difficulties, discouragement, and circumstances beyond their control. In some cases there was no way out but to wait and to trust that in time things would change for the better. The best they could do was to just get through those times, and that meant trusting God while journeying through that valley. Sometimes they would ask me for advice and I would pray for them and try to give them some encouragement or comfort, but often there wasn’t really anything that could be done to help in a practical sense.
However, each persevered through their difficulties. They held on to the Lord; they didn’t give up; they passed through the valley and came out on the other side. Those difficulties eventually became things of the past. Today, their situations are very different and their lives much happier. Their trust and faith paid off.
Besides the happiness I feel for these friends, I also have great admiration for them. Their particular valleys took a long time to travel through—years, in some cases. But each held on, each didn’t give up, and each is better and happier for it.
Just today, I was reminded of a low time in my own life, when I was faced with the most trying circumstances I had encountered up to that point. There was nothing I could do to remedy the situation except pray and trust God for the outcome—that He would either change the situation or give me the grace to make it through. Thankfully, He did both, and I’m still grateful for it.
During those traumatic weeks, a dear friend gave me a notebook with a number of Bible verses pasted into it. Some nights, all I could do was curl up on my bed and read those verses. Nothing else provided relief. That booklet of verses was my lifesaver.
In time, I passed through that valley. Some years ago, I loaned that same notebook to another friend who was experiencing turbulent times. When she returned it recently, we discussed her journey over the past years, how she has grown and changed and has much more peace and joy in her life.
These events in others’ lives and my own have highlighted for me the importance of trusting God in difficult times. Most trials and tribulations don’t pass immediately; sometimes they last a very long time. In the midst of them you may feel as if you’re being ripped apart, and sometimes all you can do is cry out to Jesus, hold on desperately to the promises in His Word, fight to survive … and trust.
Seeing my newly married friend, having another one return my “survival notebook” of Bible verses, and thinking of others who at one time or another felt that they would never be happy again, but now are, reminded me that there is new life after passing through that valley of the shadow of death. It’s worth holding on for, worth waiting for, worth fighting for.
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Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass.—Psalm 37:4–5
1. Psalm 23:4