“Jesus answered them, ‘Do you now believe? Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.’”
– John 16:31-33
It’s simply not possible to live a new life, to abandon the life we used to live, without some birthing pains. It’s impossible to live on the front line of a spiritual war without a wound being inflicted, and we all carry scar tissue from those wounds.
Relationships with others will disappoint us at times, and everyone’s been let down. We can let ourselves down with a regression to a carnal self we thought we’d left behind, and everyone misbehaves. But while it’s heartening to know that our experience is a shared one, and it’s always good to know we’re not alone in doing stupid things and having to deal with the fallout from those actions, it’s not the comfort that necessarily sustains us in our darkest moments.
People in the world often talk about hitting rock bottom as being a life changing moment… the thinking being that, when you realise that there is no further you can fall, and are face to face with yourself as a person, the only way to go is up. It’s a cliché from all manner of self-help books, agony aunt columns and rehabilitation programmes the world over. Well, we don’t live in the world, and there’s no such thing as rock bottom for us.
When we hit our lowest point, far down in the valley, God is there. In fact, the valley is the place where we connect with God at the deepest level possible. Depth isn’t something to be afraid of when the Spirit is released to dwell with us at that lowest of points.
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of consolation, of grace, kindness and mercy. He’s capable of rejoicing with us in our time of favor and thankfulness, and weeping with us when we don’t feel that we can be thankful… and then showing us how wrong we are about that. When our problems are self-inflicted, He can deliver us with support, forgiveness and a restoring, cleansing grace – like standing under a waterfall. When others cause our times of trial, He takes us by the hand and leads us to a place where we can see the positivity in our lives for ourselves, to a place of favor and enlightenment. No bitterness or resentment, no guilt or condemnation to sour our outlook.
In some situations, we’ll find that the affliction doesn’t last too long – but the Spirit is still necessary to bring us fully out the other side, without leaving part of ourselves behind. In others, the time of brokenness seems to last forever… and it may be necessary for that to take place. A hard truth is that development comes through brokenness. Sometimes we have to come to the end of who we are in order to find the beginning of who we need to be. Jesus knows that better than anyone, having Himself learned obedience through suffering. In doing so, He overcame the world – and we’ve sworn to be like Christ. It’s in the name! In times such as these, the comforting aspect of the Spirit holds us in His arms and in His heart, and sustains us, holding the broken pieces together until they can begin to mend.
Often we think that we don’t want that. Often we beg for the removal of the trial itself, as if taking away the pain will solve the problem properly and for all time. That’s not the way life works, and it’s not the way healing and growing work either. Reptiles shed their skin. Children lose baby teeth. Puberty isn’t a barrel of laughs either! The fact is that every real period of growth is a period of adjustment, often painfully so. But we don’t grow in order to stay the same. We grow in order to leave that person behind, and to become something more.
In those times, deep in the valley where we feel we’ve hit rock bottom, we only have to ask and the Spirit will reveal Himself to us, reassuring us, refreshing us, renewing us. He’s our shield against sinking into despondency, depression, anger and all the negative feelings that can come with trials. In being that person for us in our time of need, He increases our potential for kindness, humility and patience. Upgraded like that, we can be that person for someone else, filled with a comforting Spirit.
Learning how greatly we are loved increases our own capacity to love in return. God’s capacity for love – to love us – is bottomless, and the Spirit allows us to have that reflected in our own lives, even deep in the valley… especially deep in the valley.