Artwork by Nathalie Kelley
I love to share my victories, not because they are mine, but because they point to the One who is greater than I. When personal breakthrough happens, when someone is healed or saved, when prayers are answered, it is God who deserves all the glory. When I share these testimonies, it is because I am so excited about what He is doing in my life and the lives of others and I just can’t help but to share.
But lest you think my life is always miracles, sunshine, and roses, I need to share my struggles as well. And I believe God gets just as much glory out of the valley moments as He does on the mountaintop.
Believers are given authority over all the works of the enemy. We have the very same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead living inside of us. Sin’s power is broken over us. We are seated in Heavenly places with Jesus and given every spiritual blessing in His name.
Still, in this world, we will experience trouble. Jesus promised it. But He also told us to take heart because He is always with us. We will encounter trials. We will go through the fire. Yet, these moments are meant to perfect us, to refine us, and to prepare us for everything God has in store to do in and through us.
My brothers, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. James 1:2-3
The life-long refining process of making us look more like Jesus is not always pleasant. To be honest, it isn’t pleasant at all. But it is necessary and it is worth it. We can take joy through it, knowing that our Heavenly Father is working all things for our good as He purges everything in us that does not glorify Him.
Sometimes during this process I get discouraged. I wonder how many times I am going to have to experience the same setbacks, struggle with the same sin, and be subject to the same endless spiritual warfare as the enemy seeks to render me emotionally drained and incapable of doing the Father’s will.
Yesterday was another one of these valley-type days. As I look back, I see how the enemy strategically and carefully lined up his fiery darts to attack my faith and get me more focused on my emotions than on God’s Truth. It started with the allure to sleep in. This is where I’ve been attacked the most lately. When I sleep too late I forsake precious time with Jesus. I need this extra time to spend in God’s Presence and in His Word, building up my faith to prepare me for the day.
Next up were the distractions. Each time I would settle in to read my Bible and pray, a distraction would come. Notifications on my phone. Random thoughts. You know the drill. By the time I was due to pick up my son from his extracurricular program, I was already discouraged and upset with myself for not doing the things I know I need to do to stay rooted in Christ for the day.
After pick-up, I had a few errands to run. I’ve been trying to make it a point to pray for at least one person every time I’m out and about. But now, due to discouragement as I succumbed to the enemy’s attacks, my boldness was gone. I missed several opportunities to pray for people I knew God set in my path.
You might think I am too hard on myself, but I set my expectations high. I always want to practice what I preach. I don’t want to miss opportunities to share Jesus and I definitely don’t want to disobey God. Yet, even through all this, there is grace.
Aren’t you thankful for grace? I know I am.
As He always does, by the end of the night God reached out and spoke to me about what was going on. He put the exact Truth in my path that I needed to see. He is so good like that. And then this morning (as I began my day early and filled with expectation) He spoke again, as I finished up my study of the book of John.
You see, we aren’t the only ones who feel like we have blown it sometimes. Jesus’ disciples felt the very same way, especially Peter. Peter had denied Jesus three times, after swearing His allegiance on that very same day. How discouraged Peter must have felt. I imagine he couldn’t get his failure out of his head, much in the same way our own failures tend to run through ours.
But then, Jesus shows up. I love how when Jesus appeared to the disciples on the shores of the lake where they were fishing, the first thing He did was perform a miracle. We serve an awesome, miracle-working God don’t we? Anyway, I digress.
So, Jesus is there, and Peter can’t contain himself enough to wait until the boat could row to shore. The boat wasn’t even that far away, but Peter throws himself into the sea and swims to Jesus as fast as he can.
But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Then Jesus said to them, “Children, have you any food?” They answered Him, “No.” And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish. Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it) and plunged into the sea. John 21:4-7
What a beautiful picture of how we should respond after failure. Many times we want to hide. We are guilt-ridden, riddled with shame, and feeling completely unworthy. Yet Jesus stands on the shore with His arms wide open, ready to forgive, to restore, and to release His mercy upon us.
This is the kind of relationship God wants to have with us. This relationship doesn’t promise only sunshine and rainbows but it does promise grace and mercy when we feel like we fail. A relationship of a Father to a child. This type of relationship does include discipline. But God’s discipline always produces good fruit in us, which leads to good fruit flowing out of us.
So whether you are in the mountaintop or the valley, remember that your Father is always with you. There is purpose in your trial and God intends to use it all for your good and for His glory. His mercies truly are new each morning, and He promises that what He starts in us, He will complete. He is so faithful.