-by Thea Coetzer
Article source: JOY! Magazine

This reflection is in response to all those Christians who tirelessly search for reasons behind difficult and stressful times in their own lives and/or often also feel the need to try and help other Christians by suggesting possible causes for these difficult times. I refer to these type of circumstances as our “valleys of death”. It can refer to any major physical, emotional, social, environmental, economic, or job-related stressor.

A non-Scriptural approach
It is totally understandable to reason that if one can get to the root cause of the “valley of death”, one will be able to affect the necessary changes that will put one back on “the right track” or that will get one restored to wellness. This type of reasoning is often the cause of hurtful remarks like “there must be some sin in your life otherwise this will not happen” or “just pray and ask God to reveal to you the open door in your life” or “you need to see a good counselor that can trace hidden things in your past – even before your birth” etc. This is however contradictory to Scripture. What I find in Scripture is a loving and fearless God when it comes to revealing sin. He is not playing “hide and seek” where sin is involved. He is such a loving God that He even warns us before it actually happens. Look at God’s own words to Cain in Gen 4:6-7; and His warning to the Israelites in Deut 1:41-46. Also the story of Sarai and Hagar where God instructs Hagar to return and submit under the control of Sarai (Gen 16:9); Saul’s disobedience revealed by Samuel (1 Sam 13); David’s relationship with Bathsheba revealed by Nathan; God’s instruction to Jonah in Jonah 1:1-3 and his disobedience etc. The examples in the Old Testament are endless. 

Overstepping God’s boundaries
Christians involved in acts of sin know very well or at least have a strong suspicion that they are overstepping God’s boundaries. The Bible tells us so. Believers have God’s Word written in their hearts (Rom 2:15) and the Holy Spirit (Rom 8:5) that will do the necessary convincing. There are also several examples in the New Testament where Jesus openly challenged the Pharisees with their sin. Also consider His Word to the seven churches in Revelation. You will note that God mostly used judges and prophets in the Old Testament to communicate His Will to the people. In the New Testament, Jesus spoke of and revealed sin and after His ascension, the Holy Spirit revealed sin in the lives of believers. The apostles also revealed sin and guided newly established churches on dealing with members in sin. This is applicable to cases where people were hardened by a specific sin and continued in that sin with the danger of enticing others to do the same.

God is victorious, and He leads us
As believers, we have the wonderful promise in 1Cor 10:13 that with every temptation, God will provide the ability to be victorious over any challenge. Isn’t it in any case the first response of every believer to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any sin when we realise that we have entered a “valley of death”? Why do we feel obliged to mention sin first as a possible cause to fellow believers and often in an inconsiderate way? Today, as born-again Christians, we have the indwelling Holy Spirit. John 16:7-13 teaches us that it is the job of the Holy Spirit to convict of sin. Believers were given, amongst others, the charge to love (1 John 3:16) and pray (Jas 5:16) for one another. 1 John 5:18 explains that no born-again believer can deliberately and knowingly continue in sin. Why then do we hurt one another with remarks about sin being the reason for all “bad things” happening in our lives?

Trusting God in difficult situations
Why do we so diligently persist in desiring and often claiming to know why? In Ps 23, King David did not state reasons for the valley of death – he was just comforted by God’s presence. Young Daniel and his friends did not question the reason behind the persecution of the King – they just trusted God. Abraham did not search for reasons why God wanted him to leave his family and country – he just trusted God. Job had all the reason in the world to demand answers to his “why’s” – yet he refused to curse, but trusted God. Annanias surely must have thought he’s done something wrong and will now be killed because God chose him to go to Saul, but he trusted God and obeyed. Once again, examples of Christians just trusting God in difficult and stressful times are endless. 

Peace avails in the midst of darkness
How much more then should we also trust God when we find ourselves in some kind of “valley of death”?  Our focus must not be on discovering the reason, but on discovering God’s character as revealed to us as He walks us step-by-step through the valley of death. Questions and hurtful remarks to others in their “valley of death” is definitely not part of God’s plan for His Bride. I am yet to meet a believer to whom God has provided detailed explanations as to the reasons for a specific valley of death, but I can refer you to countless believers who have been comforted by the Holy Spirit and found peace that surpasses all human understanding – even in the midst of the darkest valleys of death.

We need not fear any evil
The intention of this reflection is not to devalue any introspection guided by the Holy Spirit to search for sin as a possible reason for troubled times, but rather to confirm that it is the natural approach and act of every true believer who has a living relationship with a loving God. It also aims at encouraging Christians to be the supportive and loving family as God intended His Bride to be. We never know when we will be next to enter a valley of death. What a comfort to know He will walk with us, His rod and His staff will guide us. We need not fear any evil. May our prayers resemble the prayer of Jesus “and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil… Not my will but Your Will be done, Amen.”

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