I want you to take a moment to look at the photo that’s been posted in this blog.  Beautiful isn’t it?  A man by the name of Tyler Lastovich took this beautiful photo and so graciously posted it on a website for all the world to see and enjoy.  When I look at it, I see the beauty that’s within nature. The beauty of God’s design. I also see an image of life.  When we look at the Old Testament, we see the story of the Israelites, God’s chosen people.  We see how God made a covenant, or an agreement, with Abraham, that his descendants would be great among the nations.  Then as we move through we start seeing stories where the Israelites where on top of a mountain. They were all for God, things were going great, God became less important, and then all of a sudden they would crash.  God sent prophets to warn the people, and then with that same warning, God would remind them that He hasn’t broken His promise to them.  They will still be great among the nations, but the wickedness had to stop, the disobedience had to stop. The Israelites would get sent into exile or have something else happen, and they would cry out to God because they couldn’t see what lies ahead and had no hope because they thought all was lost. God was with them the entire time, He knew what was ahead and all they had to do was listen and trust in the Lord.

The picture is a perfect illustration of the Israelites and our lives today. On the left is a “mountain,” that’s probably more of a hill, but the point is there.  At the base is a river, in a valley.  This river is flowing quickly, hitting rocks, and making waves.  On the other side, we see some green, but there’s clouds at the top, we don’t know what lies ahead once we cross the rough river.  Is it a high mountain or just a small hill before a deeper valley?  The honest answer is we don’t know until we keep moving forward.  Now if we were in this picture, there are some things we could learn.  We learn to enjoy being on top of the mountain and taking in the view.  However, sometimes a mountain isn’t the best place to be in order to learn the most. From the mountain, we see a bigger view, but when we fall into the valley that’s where we learn the details.  Valley’s in life are the most difficult.  There is usually a small glimmer of hope on the other side, but a roaring river in between.  In order to get to the other side, we have to navigate the river. We look to see what stones we’re able to walk on, we slip on some that may look sturdy, fall in, get wet, but we get back up and keep going. We sometimes doubt if we’ll make it, we sometimes doubt if it’s worth it. We sometimes wonder why or how did we get into this situation to begin with. Eventually, we get to the other side. We look back, see what we’ve learned and have the confidence that next time we come across something similar, we will know how to get across or if a friend comes behind, we’ll know how to show them how to get across.

I say this picture is a perfect illustration for the Israelites and for our lives today because that’s exactly what it looks like.  When you’ve confessed Jesus as Lord, it doesn’t mean that life becomes perfect, and you won’t face any problems.  It just means that when they come, you already know there is a glimmer of hope on the other side that you have to keep moving to get to. God didn’t spare His chosen people from problems and He won’t spare us.  Sometimes our problems are self inflicted.  We let our own sinful desires to take over and then we’ve created a mess. However, there are times where God allows us to go into these valleys on purpose. That may sound mean. How can a loving God send someone who worships Him into a valley on purpose?  Well as I stated earlier, you learn more in the details.  When we go through these valleys, whether self inflicted or the on purpose ones, our faith should grow stronger.  We should learn to trust God and trust in the fact that He promises there is hope on the other side.  Sometimes that hope isn’t what we want.  Sometimes we get angry at God for having us cross such a rough river with very little to stand on.  When we get to the other side, we’re soaked, we’re tired, and may have even felt like you almost drowned. We look around and at the time, we may not be able to see God. It seems like He disappeared.

I’m very open and honest about my life. I’ve seen other pastors and other friends that are believers, who tend make it seem like they are always on the mountain and never go through a valley.  That’s not real to life and if I’m not being real, how could anyone trust me? Last week was a horrible week for me.  It started with an acquaintance, whom I’m dear friends with her mother and father in-law and her brother and his wife, decided that the valley’s were too deep and she ended her life at 29.  A couple of days later another dear friend passed away suddenly.  Last week sucked.  There was so much death, sorrow, pain, tears, heartache surrounding me.  On top of that, a bunch of other little things going on started to jab here and there.  These things started to seem bigger than what they were. Then two members of the church get placed into the hospital.  By the end of last week all I could do is just ask God what in the world, why is everything seem to be crashing down. I honestly started looking for the wrong hope.  I knew God was going to take care of things and that He is in control, but the hope that I was looking for wasn’t the hope that I really needed to look for.  After visiting with one of the church members in the hospital, God reminded me to look for that hope.  A nurse shared how things had occurred that only God could have set up.  She shared how God used this one church member to renew her faith in God, and how a doctor at the hospital had to admit that it was a God thing.  I’ve realized that the hope I should have been looking for is not the hope that all gets cleared up, but that hope that God gets glorified.