The Fruit Filled Valley
Billy Graham said, “Mountaintops are for views and inspiration, but fruit is grown in the valleys”.
Well then, I should be very fruitful. I know quite a few of us can say that the last few years have been very challenging. As I reflect on 2019, the changes that occurred in me over the year are astonishing.
In January 2019, I did not feel well. I just had the 2nd of two steroid injections and that began a long downward health spiral. The timing of this was interesting in that I was in the first few months of my year-long sabbatical from counseling, teaching, and leading groups. The Lord gave me the word ‘rest’ for 2019. I was trying my best to rest. I felt so bad that physically resting came pretty easily.
As spring approached, I noticed a small lump on my upper arm but did not really think much of it. I get little nodules from Rheumatoid Arthritis often. I figured it was just another nodule and it would go away eventually. Over the months, my energy really drained and I started having a rebound reaction to the steroids meaning that my body was having withdrawals from the steroid injections. Not. Fun.
In May, I began seeking the Lord, desperately wanting to spend time with Him. I spent several hours each day worshipping and just talking with Him. At the end of my 21-day God-intensive, the spot on my arm started to rupture.
Little did I know that I had a huge abscess from a B-12 shot that had been developing for 5 months. Due to the large steroid injection earlier in the year, my immune system was so depressed that I never knew I had any type of infection. I had no signs of infection. Long story made short, I ended up in the hospital for 5 days undergoing a surgical procedure to remove the abscess to discover I had a severe MRSA infection.
No wonder I felt terrible! Recovering from the large doses of antibiotics and doing daily wound care really took a toll on me. Slowly, I started to feel better and regain some strength. I had lost so much strength that I had to teach my self to walk again. Quite humbling.
My husband took on most of my responsibilities with work, we own a business together so it really impacted him. Not only did he take on the work duties, but he also took on most of the house responsibilities and managed to care for me over the months. He was really a blessing and a true servant, never did he complain.
We had friends that helped in many ways to care for me and help out around the house. What a blessing to have a community. The Lord was so faithful to provide what we needed when we needed it.
I had a period of time after I left the hospital that I really questioned my faith. I did not feel anything and I did not really care about anything. I could not imagine counseling again because I did not think God would help anyone since He did not help me. Normally God speaks as I write, worship, or meditate on His Word but this time the words in the bible seemed lifeless.
During this time Jeremiah 29:11-13 kept going through my mind. The verses are so familiar I just blew it off thinking that I didn’t need to read it since I knew what they said.. Then one day I opened it up and read it.
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.”
When I read this, I realize that I had to seek Him with my entire being. So I did. I worshipped through the silence and numbness because faith in God is not about a feeling. I prayed through the silence and numbness because He is still listening (Jeremiah 29:12-13, 1 Peter 3:12). I chose to believe that He was with me because He said that He would never leave or forsake me. (Deuteronomy 31:6).
I realized that this season of silence and numbness led me to the steady, ever-present God. He is not a feeling, He is not a divine slot machine that just serves us but He is the creator of the Universe. We are made in His image, He is not made in ours. There are things we do not understand because He is God and we are not.
No matter what, He is God. He sent His Son to die for us to save us from eternal damnation not to make sure we were happy. Once I shifted my focus to the awesome nature of God and took my eyes off me and my situation, life got immensely better. Problems became smaller and God became bigger. Fear of man became smaller and God became bigger.
My husband and I learned many things this year. The primary lesson is that God is faithful. He provided money when needed. He provided help when needed. He taught me how to rest and the value of resting.
He taught me about hope. He taught me that if I seek Him I will find Him. He taught me that faith is not a feeling. The most important lesson for me occurred deep in my heart and that is the knowledge that no matter what happens I will follow Him. It is not about how I feel or my circumstances. It is not about how things are working our for me now. It is choosing to worship Him no matter what! It is choosing to believe and trust in Him no matter my situation.
In summary, the word of the year was rest. What I thought would be an unproductive and unfruitful yielded the biggest return possible – meeting my Heavenly Father and Creator of the Universe in the valley of 2019. I know that He is God and I am made in His image. My prayer going into 2020 is that I begin to look more like Him and that I would have more mountaintop experiences.