The Good Long Way

Today I was thinking about how often we get tempted to take the easy way out. It happens all day long. Cut this corner, skip that duty, do what I want instead of helping someone else who needs something…

I usually don’t take the easy way out anymore. I used to when I was younger, but my dad was the king of the good, long way. After watching him persevere for years and put our needs above even his own comfort, I knew he was a treasure and a living example of the Lord Jesus to us.

My dad’s life is a kindness from the Lord. Through many ways, the Lord guided his feet into the way of peace; the long way that builds strength and brings great joy.

Now it’s my turn. It’s my turn to give and bless, and I can tell you that it makes me so happy to be a blessing to anyone who will receive it.

It’s hard though. Sometimes it’s really, really hard because you love your loved ones so much and it’s terrible to see them suffer. Yet you keep going.

Then you get tired and discouraged. It all starts to seem like a dark valley that has no end.

Over the years, the Lord has shown me that this feeling of being alone in a dark valley is really just an illusion. It’s a trick of the enemy. Don’t ever fall for that trick.

Especially when you feel the discouragement, because just when you think you can’t stand the pain anymore, when you can’t take one more step, the sunlight streams in and warms your face.

Then you see the truth: the valley may be long, but it is not dark. It is green and lush and filled with living water. It is a place of growth and of resting in the strength of the Good Shepherd who walks with you through the whole thing.

You know, I have never regretted putting aside my own desires in order to bless someone else. I’ve never regretted spending time I didn’t think I had to minister to someone else. I’ve only regretted not doing those things.

Jesus walked and walked all over Israel for over three years and hardly ever had a minute to Himself. He preached, taught, and healed all who came to Him. He was thronged by crowds, had no place to lay His head, and had to get up in the middle of the night to have time to talk with His Heavenly Father. And yet, He did all this with great calm and perfect joy because He came to deliver all who were oppressed of the devil.

Blessing others is not about giving up things we want. It’s about getting to travel a higher way – the long, good way that is the way of peace. Traveling in the way of great joy of watching Jesus minister to those we love, and seeing them blossom in the unwavering love of God.

…how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. (Acts 10:38, NKJV)

Phyllis Keels

What Happens in the Valley

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What happens in the valley? No, not like Vegas – you know, what happens in the valley stays in the valley? More like, what really happens in the valley. I know what being in the valley feels like, and recently the Lord showed me something brand new about these places in our lives.

When I write fiction and describe a valley, it’s always a green, beautiful place. It usually has a stream running through it, and is somewhere that I’d love to stay.

In my emotional and spiritual life, valleys are very different. They are usually dark places of anguish, where I can’t feel the Lord’s presence, and I can’t hear His voice. They are not pleasant places.

Recently, after coming out of another valley, when I was talking about this with a godly friend I admire so much, she said, “Phyllis, you need to look at a valley as a place of growth.”

I knew she was right. I knew that valleys can be places of shelter and abundant growth if we let them be.

Whenever I do go through one, my first urge is to get out as quickly as I can. This doesn’t always happen and sometimes I am there a long time (or what feels like a long time). Only when I am coming out can I appreciate wisdom or advice from someone else. Only when it’s over, do I accept that the valley was useful and necessary – never while I’m in it.

As I pondered on all of this, I realized something else too. Battles are fought in valleys. David killed Goliath in the valley of Elah. Valleys are where things happen.

When we’re going through a low place, it seems like nothing is happening. It seems like we’re all alone and forgotten, that the Lord is far away, or doesn’t care.

My friend, don’t you fall for that lie. The Lord does not leave you, not even for one moment. Remember what King David said in Psalm 23? “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”

The truth is that the Lord is fighting the battle. He is strengthening you. He is making things happen. All you need to do is to cling to Him and keep walking with Him.

I’ll be the first one to tell you that I don’t know why we have to go through valleys. They are painful places, and we may not understand the “why” until much later, if at all. However, understanding why is always secondary to remaining faithful in the valley.

My friend, if you are going through a low place, a lonely place, then hold on to this truth and read it later: your Heavenly Father loves you, is right there with you, and will never leave you. Never. He has lovely plans for you. He is producing fruit in you, and He cares about everything in your life.

Then when you come out, ask Him what you are to do with the growth that happened while you waited, while you walked with Him. Ask Him to show you something new and wonderful about Jesus and how He strengthened you.

He will show you, dear friend, because it is His faithfulness that brought you out and into the warm sunlight again.

Phyllis Keels