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Questions in the Valley
Hello from the sidelines.
Wouldn’t you know that to equip a writer, God often takes us through the valley of trials so we can authentically share our experiences? As I write about overlooked biblical people, I see that their lives were filled with challenges, complexities, and subtle victories. Then I close the laptop and step back into my own modern life, realizing how surprisingly similar we are. They struggled with their faults and difficult circumstances, and here I am struggling with my mental health and situations beyond my control. How about you? Are you in a sidelines season right now? Does it seem like you’re being left behind, overlooked, or walking a valley of your own?
We often find ourselves with questions during these seasons. What do I do? Why is this happening? Is there a purpose? When will the sun shine again? We want to make sense of our situation and survive. As we talk to God and ponder our current condition, we frequently find ourselves walking a path into an increasingly dense forest of deeper questions. Before we know it, we’re thinking about philosophy, theology, and how the world works. Overwhelming, right?
But questions are good. Jesus told us, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8). Questions create opportunities for increased understanding and growth. The process of asking is as important as receiving answers because any communication with the Lord means time in His presence. The more we talk, the more we connect with Him. And the more we listen, the better we know Him.
However. (There always seems to be a “but.”) The answers don’t always seem to arrive when I’d like them to, or sometimes at all. What are we supposed to do with our hands full of questions and empty of explanations? Though scripture is our anchor as we seek, we quickly find out that the text is not always clear. After all, scholars have been studying for centuries and there’s still much we don’t understand about our God. He’s beyond our reasoning, our experience, and our brains’ capabilities. This is fantastic news, because we need a God who is big enough to care for a universe!
Yet there’s something more happening here. I think that God is giving us a gift when we remain with questions. Sometimes it’s the blessing of a question as an answer. I asked, How do I understand what your Word says about sexuality and identity? He replied, What does my Word say about loving others? While there are still scriptures and context to grapple with, God’s question shows me what to do with my heart and my hands while my head is still learning. Lately, my brain has difficulty comprehending eternity, salvation, and the concept of hell. How can You love the world but so many miss You? How do I truly understand scripture? Is everything I learned as a child accurate? I don’t have answers yet, but I have this holy gift: faith in the valley.
This isn’t blind faith that stubbornly closes its eyes and believes for no reason. That’s not a very secure way to trust. In fact, it’s a bit of a shaky foundation. No, this kind of faith is different. We look back at what God has done and see the evidence of His goodness. We recognize the consistency of His character. He is good. He is love. And like the man in Mark 9, we can also exclaim to the Lord, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
If we had all the answers, it wouldn’t be faith because faith believes what is unseen (Hebrews 11:1). And this faith is only possible because the One we believe in is trustworthy and compassionate. He is almighty and a promise-keeper. He’s handling everything “behind the scenes” so that we don’t have to master it all in this lifetime. He’ll continue to grow and transform us at the perfect rate and knows how much we can take at a time. The Lord also knows that we sometimes learn better with hands-on experience than by reading or listening. He’s a detail-oriented God, and the key is His immense care for us. He wants us to know Him better, but we’ve got to go at a human pace that we can handle.
The gift I love the most is sacred peace. I get incredibly frustrated when I don’t understand everything right away, which leads to insecurity and doubt. But faith in the valley comes with security when I have more questions than answers. Paul wrote to the Romans, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13). I can’t manufacture this peace, but the Holy Spirit provides it generously.
Questions are a gift from God. They open the door to His blessings as we trust Him the best we can, day by day. This active trust increases our faith and gives us hope that, in the right time, we will understand. Maybe this is what Jesus meant when He encouraged us to have faith like a child. We can walk side by side with our Heavenly Father through the valleys, closer to Him with every step.