“Can’t see your pain but it can silently kill you
So deeply wounded but you don’t say a thing
Too afraid of what the people may say or think
So you just sit there and suffer in silence”
(Excerpt from “God Sees You” by Shanta Atkins)
Do these lyrics speak to you? Maybe these words speak to a different time in your life? Regardless, you know what it feels like to walk through a "valley." The "valley" is a place that feels dark and lonely at times. But guess what? God can meet you there. How do I know this? Because God is with us in our hills ("ups) and valleys ("downs). He’s not more present in one over the other. Even though it can feel this way.
Maybe like me, you have been having a tough time believing that God is equally present in both your hills AND valleys. That's what happens when in a dark place. It can feel like no one else understands the pain. However, I’m sure if you ask any honest person, they will admit they are struggling. We often try to "save face” and act like everything is okay but in reality, we are suffering in silence. But God has been showing me that He is not one to leave us alone in our pain.
Lately, God has been challenging me to go back to the basics. He’s been challenging me to refresh my memory about the kind of God that he is. Maybe this is something you want to do. In this time, I have been asking myself deep but simple questions. Who is God to me? Why do I believe what I believe? Do I believe that God is who he says he is? What is he truly like? Can I really trust God? Does he actually, truly, and really care about me? What does he say about me? In these questions, God has been showing me where my faith is really at. And honestly, I've had the realization that my negative thoughts have been drowning out my faith.
Like many, 2020 has been a year of exposing my faith and showing me how sturdy my faith really is. It’s been a year of God challenging me to not just talk the talk in public but to walk the walk of faith in private. This has been a year where our faith has been tested the absolute most. Maybe your faith has felt a little raggedy lol. In those moments, you have to ask yourself--- “Will you take God at his word even if your life isn’t lining up with what He originally said?” Will you believe that God can show up at any moment despite what's going on in the world around you? Will you hold onto the fact that God still has a plan despite nothing going according to your own plan? Will you believe that things can get better?
In speaking with my therapist, she told me something that was so simple yet so powerful—
“Listen, it all boils down to the fact that God has to be as real to you as the chair you are sitting in.”
God can’t just be someone we read about in the Bible or someone that other people tell us about. Nope, he has to be real to us because he is a personal God. And we have to know that this same personal God sees us. Like He truly sees YOU. Another thing that life is teaching me is that God cannot just be good to us when life is good. God can and will show us his goodness even in our silent suffering. The suffering isn’t good and it won’t feel good, but God can make it good. He sees us through it until it IS good.
Honestly, I’ve had to take an honest look at myself and admit that God’s goodness to me has been dependent on how good my life is going. And the minute things didn’t go my way, I would become more distant. I would get frustrated with God. But just like the song by Tauren Wells says, God is the God of BOTH our “Hills and Valleys.” When I think of this, Psalm 23 comes to mind. You may be familiar with it. I think it was one of the first verses I learned in Sunday school but it has taken on a whole new level of meaning now that I’m an adult. This scripture is great for finding out about how God moves in our “ups and downs.”
The Lord is my shepherd;
I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
He leads me beside peaceful streams.
He renews my strength.
He guides me along the right paths,
bringing honor to his name.
Even when I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
protect and comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me
in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord
Looking at Psalm 23, it really is a verse that can calm us down. It’s a verse that speaks to the fact that God STILL guides us in our valleys. Since I love breaking down scripture to where I can understand it better, I thought I would share what Psalm 23 can teach us about “The God of the Hills and Valleys” :
#1: With God, we have ALL we need...even in our suffering.
Just like a sheep is totally dependent on a Shepherd, we were built to be dependent on God. A shepherd is basically a guide. We need God as our guide because we have no way of knowing what will happen next in our lives, BUT GOD DOES. Sis, life is unexpected and what comes with it can leave us happy, sad, surprised, confused, excited, angry, frustrated, discouraged, etc…And God is the only one who can take us through each of those emotions. He can handle our mood changes like no other lol. And the beautiful thing about God is that we may start feeling sad or depressed and leave feeling hopeful after spending time with Him (And know that God also moves through other resources such as therapy/counseling)
#2: With God, we can get to a place of feeling content and refreshed
Psalm 23 mentions that “He lets me rest….He leads me.” God knows what we need when we need it. It’s why there are times when God will call us “away” to re-energize us. This is the best thing we can do when we feel spiritually weak. Our faith may be hanging on by a thread. That is the time when God shows up. It reminds me of the verse that talks about when we feel our weakest, God’s power is the strongest. (2 Corinthians 12:10)
#3: He gives us the strength to keep going--even when what we are going through is dark, difficult, and quite painful.
Sis, God doesn’t just sit back and watch us go through the pain. He is literally with us carrying us through it. A part of me has had difficulty with this revelation because I’m like instead of just getting us through the pain, why doesn’t God just remove it? I can’t pretend I have the answer but I do know that if I believe in God, then I also have to believe there is an enemy of God. And his sole purpose is to cause us pain.
Some would say well isn’t God powerful enough to override that enemy? Yes, he is. This brings us to Romans 8:28. God will pull the “good out of the bad.” God can and will pull the good out of our pain. Growing up, it didn't click with me that God never told us we would have a “pain-free” life. The simple truth is that as long as we live on earth, we will experience pain. That sounds terrible BUT the key is that while we may have pain, IT IS NOT THE END. It’s like this, sis. Sometimes, the pain happens and it hurts bad...really bad. We pray for God to step in and heal the pain. Then, God comes in and flips the bad thing that happened to us into something good. The GOOD news is that the “good” is the ending. God will never leave us in our pain. If what you’re going through isn’t good yet...THEN GOD IS NOT DONE YET.
Remember, I said earlier that sometimes the pain WILL happen. Well, at other times, God will step in BEFORE the pain happens. Here’s something that has helped me SO MUCH in my faith walk with God——Sometimes, he will have us walk AROUND the pain, and other times, he has us walk THROUGH it. I can’t fully explain why God steps in before or after the pain but I DO KNOW that God steps in regardless. That is the beauty of hope and prayer. We just don’t know if God will come through before or after we experience pain. We can’t know for sure which way God will go so we pray ANYWAY. We believe anyway because either way, God is able. On either side of the pain, whether before or after, God can and WILL come through. That’s what keeps our hope and faith alive.
#4: Our struggles and suffering (BOTH public and private) mean something.
I don’t think you and I fully understand that God is really about that “Ephesians 3:20” life. You may have heard the phrase, “There’s a method to the madness.” Well, there’s a method to God’s “madness.” As hard as it is for us to believe, God really does have a plan in place for each one of us. Next time, you experience a setback or disappointment, remind yourself, “God has a plan.” It won’t feel like it at that moment. Like at all. But faith says, I still believe he has a plan despite how I feel... And he DOES!
I think in the hustle and bustle of life, it’s easy for us to underestimate the strategic-ness of God. That’s not a real word lol but sis, God is so strategic. When he tells us to do something, it is not God “winging it.” It’s not Him trying to kill our vibe. He has a purpose behind everything he tells us to do. And more than likely, the steps won’t make sense until we look back at our life... It reminds me of John 13:7 that says, “You may not understand now, BUT someday you will.”
We may not get it now. Other people may not get what God is doing in your life. But hindsight is 20/20 because one day, it will ALL click. For now, we may be out here looking crazy stepping out on faith. But we have to do it anyway! That’s what leads to verse 6 where David says, “You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings.”
#5: Sometimes, we silently suffer because we don't believe that God has more than enough. BUT please know that God never runs out of love and he never runs out of favor.
Verse 6 talks about “Goodness and mercy” following us for the rest of our lives. In dealing with comparison, God has been showing me his goodness. I didn’t quite understand how the two of these went together but now I totally get it.
When we truly…I mean truly believe that God does not run out of love or favor, it is much easier to deal with comparison when it comes. When we truly understand that God’s blessings are like the ocean and not like a pie, it will be much easier to celebrate others. It seems like a silly and random example but someone told me this and it’s stuck with me years later. Just like the ocean never runs out of water, God never runs out of blessings. But you can always run out of pie lol. I constantly remind myself that God’s blessings never ever run out. What’s meant for you is for you. That means our blessings can never be taken by anyone, no matter how much time has passed. Why? Because it is meant for YOU and ONLY YOU. Your blessing is literally just waiting for you to show up ready AND for God to say it’s the right time for it to be released.
I hope this breakdown of Psalm 23 has helped you to see that God is with you in BOTH your “hills and valleys” aka the “ups and downs” of your life. When you are suffering in silence, he is there. When you feel like life is going great, he is there. If nothing else, it's time for you and me to see God differently. It’s time to go back to the basics--Re-learn who God is and His character through the Bible.
I recommend reading the stories of those who struggled with having faith and how God met them there.
P.S. Here is a short list of inspirational songs that I recommend listening to when you are in a dark place
“Tell Me Where It Hurts” by Fred Hammond
“God Sees You” by Shanta Atkins
“Never Alone” by Tori Kelly
“You Keep Me” By Travis Greene
"Better Days" by Leandria Johnson
"Better" by Jessica Reedy
"Everyone Hurts" By Kirk Franklin
"Hills and Valleys" By Tauren Wells
"Never Lost" by Elevation Worship
"Promises" by Maverick City Music
"You Know My Name" by Tasha Cobbs Leonard
"He Has His Hands on You" By Marvin Sapp
"Something Has to Break" by Kierra Sheard
Remember, that all it takes is ONE move from God. JUST ONE. And he can move at ANY moment.
Hang in there.