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Faith Series: Through The Valley

This post touches on a topic that everyone can relate to: conquering trials and tribulations. Throughout life, we are faced with storms, whether it be the death of a loved one, losing a job, divorce, you name it. But that's also why the Bible gives us so many examples of believers overcoming their hardships, as well as advice on how to do so. The main solution is faith. Thankfully, the Biblical samples provide several faith strategies we can apply.

Tough times are inevitable, especially for Christians. People often make the mistake that walking with God will be easy and there won't be any challenges. This couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, its objectively wrong. The Bible says that because we are followers of Christ, we will actually face more obstacles. One reason for this is that God tests our faith. Hebrews 11:6 says "But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that comest to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." A good quote emphasizing this point is "A faith that can't be tested is a faith that can't trusted."

We're all familiar with faith and have had to use it at some point in our lives, but what does the Bible say about it? Scripture defines faith as "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen," Hebrews 11:1. In other words, faith is the belief in something, or in this case, a God we can't see. Seeing a tangible paycheck for the hours you've worked doesn't require any faith, but praying for a higher paying job does. See the difference? Faith is placing your trust in God for a future outcome to occur, and believing it will happen. God understood that applying faith was a difficult concept when the Bible was written. That's why he inspired the scripture "And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be though plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you (Luke 17:6). At times it may be difficult to employ a full amount of faith, so the Bible says that if we can just show exhibit a little faith during those times, God can still move on our behalf.

If God never tested our faith through struggles, we would never know we needed Him; we'd believe that our triumphs sprouted from our own doing. Furthermore, God put us in positions that are impossible for us to surmount on our own, forcing us to rely on Him, or to suffer without Him. Difficult times also keep us grounded. As believers, every good thing we have comes from God. But oftentimes we lose sight of that. So God will sometimes send us a trial to remember that our success is not arising our own strength, but through God's grace, favor, and mercy. For example, say a man has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Doctors have given him six months to live. But rather than agreeing with the diagnosis, he petitions God. Carl knows he can't heal himself or get better through the use of medicine. But because he's a man of faith, he believes that God can deliver him from the sickness. Subsequently, God heals Carl of the cancer, and he gives God the glory because it was only Him who could have healed him.

My favorite scripture has become Romans 8:28, which states "All things work to the good of them that love God, according to his purpose." At first glance, this scripture may sound counterintuitive, especially when you think about about a negative situation working for your good. We simply have to understand that God's ways and thoughts are different from ours, and that He knows what's best for us. So even when in a difficult situation, it may be tough to see the good in it, which is why we must have faith in God. For example, you may be on your way to work one morning, but your car doesn't start. Naturally, anyone would be frustrated. But that evening when you check the news, you see that a truck rolled over into several cars on your commute route, and you could have been injured or even killed. Thus, faith helps us know that in every situation, God is using it for our good.

Although things work for good, a part of being a believer is suffering with Christ. While living, Jesus did not live a peaceful life full of love, loyalty, and prosperity. On the contrary, he was persecuted, attacked, ridiculed, betrayed, and mocked. He suffered immensely leading up to his death. He was spit on, falsely accused and then sentenced to death for following the will of God. Not to mention his crucifixion, in which He was severely beaten and stressed to the point of literally sweating blood. He was then forced to carry his cross before being crucified on it. This is where the phrase "take up your cross" from Matthew 16:24 derives. Therefore, suffering with Christ is a part of the Christian walk. It identifies believers with encountering adversity because it compels us rely on God, tests our faith, and its God's way of putting us through the fire to bring us out tougher and more refined like a diamond.

Once we make it through the fire, the key response is to give God the glory. Glory not only showcases gratuity and praise, but it also attributes credit to God. If we start a successful business and ascribe ourselves for the achievement, it makes others think we did it on our own. But when we attribute our success to God, it shows his power and could lead others to follow him. In fact, God works the best when we admit that we are weak, and it's not by our strength, but His (2 Corinthians 12:10).

The nuance here is that we shouldn't wait until God brings us through the valley to praise him, we should do so during it. This is one of the most difficult Biblical principles to apply in my opinion because its contrary to human nature. Who in their right mind would praise God and thank him after they've just been fired from their job? Not only does this principle go back to "all things work together for good," but praising God through storms dispatches angels to move on our behalf, solidifies our unwavering trust in God, and encourages him to redeem us sooner. Paul and Silas praised God while in jail and God supernaturally intervened, prompting the prison gates to open via earthquake (Acts 16:16-40). Job praised God the moment he found out his entire family died; Job certainly mourned, but the next thing he did was worship God (Job 1:20). There are numerous other examples throughout the Bible as well.

I recently just overcame a massive trial of my own last month. My wife and I decided to sell our Los Angeles home to take advantage of the equity we'd incurred in a year, and to relocate to a state where we could get more bang for our buck. Because we wanted to avoid capital gain taxes from our sell, we had to wait until October of 2022 to list on the market, missing peak season when interest rates were lower earlier in the year. We knew listing right before the holidays would be a wash so we weren't anticipating much traffic until after the new year, but all things considered, it seemed like we listed at the worst possible time. Inflation was continuing to rise, decreasing the purchasing power of households across the nation; to combat inflation the Fed was hiking to interest rates to levels not seen in decades, then the war in Ukraine started. Nevertheless, we still received a decent amount of interest in the home, and even received our first offer in late February which we accepted after some negotiation.

To our dismay, the buyer backed out 11 days before closing without justification. He simply stopped communicating with his realtor. And because the transaction was taking place in California, buyers aren't locked into a real estate contract until they've signed the contingencies, which he hadn't done yet. Over the next six months, we would go on to receive six more offers, and they would all back out for one reason or another. We were also periodically lowering our sale price. This was severely frustrating and discouraging. We were even forced to cancel the contract of the next home we were going to purchase because we weren't able to sell in time. Thankfully, the builder was able to transfer our contract to another inventory home that would be ready later in the year.

Although highly disappointed, we never gave up hope or lost faith in God. "All things work together for good" was the only thing that kept me going because I was ready to give up on several occasions. We even considered taking our home off the market at one point, but we knew that God would provide. In the moment, it sure didn't seem like things were working for our good, but God knows better than we do, and we trusted that. Ultimately, we ended up receiving an offer late in September, and were finally able to close the contract with a buyer. We were so grateful for God supplying our need. We didn't understand it at the time, but I believe that God worked this situation for our good because the home we transferred to was actually bigger and on a larger lot. So I think God rewarded us for remaining faithful to him.

Finally, the goal of trials is for us to become more Christ-like. Whether it's an attack of the enemy sanctioned by God, or punishment for our own sin, storms have a purpose. If God allowed us to continue in our sin without consequence, we'd be in jeopardy of being condemned to the lake of fire. Moreover, if God never tested our faith, it'd be weak and we wouldn't have anything to rely on when times get tough. God is preparing us to become worthy of eternal life in heaven. That requires us to endure some things so God knows our hearts our genuine, and we're not just serving him because it sounds good. So the next time you traverse a valley, keep the end goal in mind, and have faith that God will bring you through. I pray that this blog has blessed you and encourages your walk with God. God bless!

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