We will have all experienced times of temporary setbacks or trials that we pass through. These times will not last but in the middle of the setback they feel so hard that we feel we may not quite have the endurance to get through to the other side. I am not sure I am out of the woods yet but can sense an opening starting to appear after a year of extreme challenge like I have not known before.
What I have noted is who has travelled this path with us and who has dropped away. It is so interesting to look back and see who has been journeyed with us. I have realised that the community that God has provided has been wider than I could have imagined and God has added new people to us in this time so where our world may have looked to have grown smaller it has in fact increased and become more diverse which is so helpful. Not everyone you know right now will walk with you as some are not assigned to our destiny. This is a perspective that helps us not to feel the pain of perceived rejection.
In the temporary setback time God will be looking to do something new and fresh to bring about the future. We are often so intent on holding on to what we have built that a setback is needed to halt us in our tracks which will then unlock growth on so many levels. We think we are fighting one battle and God is in the background working all things together for good being creative, maturing us, orchestrating new relationships, opportunities and unfolding destiny. Truly amazing what God gets up to the temporary setbacks are a blessing in disguise.
How do we get through the middle of the valley of the shadow of darkness that Psalm 23 speaks about? Well I can only share what I have done so far. I have dug deep into what God has placed within me. We don’t realise the power of Jesus inside us to do all things until we are under pressure. We sing about it, read about it and chat it through but it is something else to use it when you have no other option as everything else has been stripped away. This exert below I wrote two years ago as part of a letter sent to a prison who encourage those who were struggling. I didn’t realise at the time I would have to navigate so heavily myself.
St Paul speaks about how he has learned to be content in all things. He expands by saying he “can do all things through Christ who strengthens him.” Paul certainly went through many tough days from imprisonment (isolation from friends) to nearly drowning in a shipwreck and every challenge in-between. I think throughout this time loss has been felt more than ever. Loss of companionship, Chapel time, visits from those you love outside and so on. Each of us will be experiencing different losses unique to ourselves.
It is vital to keep a good perspective that this is a season that will end maybe as quickly as it came and it will be a memory in the past. In the middle time that we are now in the wisdom we can use to teach ourselves to be still and guard our minds from wandering. Like Paul learning to be content one day at a time, sometimes one hour at a time is something to aim for by leaning into a growing awareness that God is always with us in every situation we face. Jesus himself passed though much loss he was known as a man of sorrows and he was able he lived a good life content in many ways by staying connected to God, the Father.
God is always with us. He never leaves or abandons us rather he strengthens us to go through the darker times. So, I pray for strength in your very beings as we all pass through this time. I leave you with the reflections of Paul from the book of Philippians 4:11-13.
“11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
I have found this year I have had to walk these words out by faith. What I mean by that is I have lived out the truth of the words. As I have walked them out I have seen they work and are therefore true. To me that means getting up each day and pushing through even when you think you can’t go on or take anymore. No one will know what I have been through inside myself as not many dare or care to ask but I have to say, I feel I have navigated the valley of darkness and know how to guide others through now despite not being quite out of the setback yet. Confidence comes as we walk through things and a knowledge that we can pass on and a deeper knowing and love of Jesus. The setbacks are temporary and they will pass. Take a look to turn and see what God is up to in the valley you are travelling through.