The last few years have been quite difficult for my family and me. First, I was forced to resign from my pastorate to prevent a church split. This led us to move to another state with our three young children. Shortly after that, I was able to find a local maintenance job, but it didn't pay enough for my family to get by without food stamps or Medicaid.
Also, in the last year our family has been struck by some strong tragedies. My mother-in-law was diagnosed with uterine cancer. My grandfather died after a long struggle with multiple health issues. And a month after my grandfather’s death my cousin was electrocuted in a work-place accident, leaving a wife and five year old son.
Given all of this, it would seem to be easy to despair and turn away from God. After all, where was God when this was happening to me? Yet, we have not turned away from God. My wife and I have actually grown closer to Him through this. How, then, do we stay faithful, stay close?
First, understand that you are not alone.
When walking through the valleys of life it is tempting to feel like you are all alone, like you are the only one to go through this. Well, you aren't that special! You are not alone in your valley. Others have trod these paths long before you. Job lost all his wealth, his family, and his health. Jesus was a “man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief" (Isaiah 53:3). The early church was persecuted throughout the Roman world. Paul suffered greatly for the cause of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:21-33). Yet he rejoiced in his sufferings (Philippians 3:8-11).
Not only is your situation not exceptional, but you are not abandoned. God is there with you, shepherding you (Psalm 23). Jesus has not abandoned you, he sent a comforter, the Holy Spirit, to be with you (John 14). Jesus promises His people to be with them always (Matthew 28:20). You see, God was with you when all of your sufferings happened. He is there in the valley. He has not abandoned you.
Secondly, pursue spiritual disciplines.
I know it may seem harsh to say, but in the valley you need to be disciplined. You need to keep up your spiritual disciplines, especially when God seems to be far off.
Pray. A constant attitude of prayer is necessary in the valley. (1 Thessalonians 5:16,17) Even in the dark places, rejoicing in prayer for the love of God lavished upon us in the death of his son is vital. Rejoice when you want to cry or shake your fist at God. Pray for your needs. Share with Him your sorrows and fears. Confess your sins. Confess your need of Him.
Read your Bible. Daily faithful Bible study reminds you of the faithfulness of God. His character is shown in the scriptures better than anywhere else. Cling to his promises.
Listen to godly men proclaim the word of God. For me, listening to the preaching of John MacArthur, Charles Swindoll, and Alistair Begg helped me greatly. Godly preaching grounded me, and told me the things I did not want to think in my pain. God is good, all the time. God is sovereign, and He is orchestrating these events for my sanctification. Godly preaching pierces the darkness with God’s light.
Thank God. God is blessing you in the valley. When Paul was in prison, the Philippians sent him a gift of money, but he had learned that God gives him all he needs (Philippians 4:10-13). Paul encouraged them to be thankful for all God has given them. I thank God for His provision in my need. He had not left us homeless, or orphans in this world. He gives us what we need.
This is what has sustained my family and me in our valley. Our valley has been long. We are still in it. We do not know when we will begin to climb the hills again. But we do know our God. He is faithful. I only hope and pray that this helps someone else who is walking through the valley.