Why Talk About Problems?
NOTES FROM THE VALLEY
July 13, 2008
"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil for you are with me." Psalm 23.
Why Talk About Problems?
"Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we
may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."
I'm often asked why Notes always talks about life's difficulties and
how we, as Christians, ought to deal with those problems. "Why don't
Notes focus more on the positive aspects of God and our faith?" I'd
like to use this edition of Notes to respond to that question.
Let me begin by saying that God has blessed Cathy and I beyond
measure. Nothing I've written in Notes has ever been meant to
indicate any dissatisfaction with the way He has dealt with us.
Quite the contrary. We are constantly amazed by His love, grace and
generosity towards us. But that wasn't always the case. In the
beginning, we knew God only as the omnipotent, omnipresent, creator
of the universe, giver of the commandments and final judge of us
all. We read about Him and listened to what others had to say about
Him and came to know Him in our heads. We were in awe of Him, maybe
even somewhat afraid of Him, but I don't think you could say we were
in love with Him. He was God the Almighty of the Old Testament:
strict, stern and distant. He was the King of Kings and we were His
Then, like little babies, we began taking our first tentative steps
of faith. And, like little babies, we fell often. But with each
failure, came a startling revelation about God. He was always
there. With our first tear or frustrated cry for help, His hand
would extend. And if we reached for that hand, the judge of the
universe would shed His black robe, step down from His high throne,
and take us in His arms. He would pick us up and comfort us. And
through that experience, head knowledge became heart knowledge; the
stern judge of the universe became our loving "Abba" Father; and
fearful subjects became trusting and adoring children.
When God led me to begin doing Notes from the Valley over ten years
ago, it was with the revelation that troubled times and failures had
provided the impetus for the growth in our relationship with Him.
Not because that's how He likes to work, but because that's when we
were finally open enough to let Him do His work in our lives. Cathy
and I don't live in the troubles of our past. But we do draw on the
lessons of that past. They remind us of the need to stay open to
God's leading in good times and bad. They encourage us with their
evidence of God's unfailing faithfulness to us in every situation
throughout the years. Even in the midst of almost losing Cathy
through the foolish mistakes of an overworked medical staff last
year, we never doubted God's presence with us, His faithful love and
care for us. When God led me to begin sharing those lessons with
others, it was for the express purpose of reminding everyone that,
whatever your situation, His hand is always there - reaching out to
I chose an excerpt from the 23rd Psalm as the header for each edition
of Notes from the Valley because I believe it describes life in this
world the best. It's a valley filled with sin and overshadowed by
the wages of that sin - death. Not exactly a vacation spot for
Christians. But fortunately we are just passing through and don't
have to call this place our home.
And we don't have to face our journey alone. God has prepared the
way. The Holy Spirit illuminates the path. And Christ is our
companion. A companion who knows the road, having traveled every
troubled inch of it's length before. A companion who is prepared to
travel every troubled inch of that road again - to be with you.
In Hebrews, Chapter 12 (the Message translation) we read: "Keep your
eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in. Study
how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed -
that exhilarating finish in and with God - he could put up with
anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. And now he's there,
in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves
flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that
long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot
adrenaline into your souls!"
One thing there is plenty of in this world is trouble. There's also
plenty of advise on how to deal with it too. But the best and
simplest advise comes straight from the words of our Heavenly
Father, "Keep your eyes on Jesus." No matter where you are or what
troubles are confronting you, He's been there. He knows the way.
He'll show it to you. Just take His hand. Each day with Him is one
day closer to home. That's the message we try to share each week in
I remain your friend, sheltered under His wing and overwhelmed by His
A MATTER OF FOCUS
(Catherine Marshall in "Touching the Heart of God")
My friend Marge had an experience aboard a plane bound for Cleveland,
waiting for takeoff. As she settled into her seat, Marge noticed a
strange phenomenon. On one side of the airplane a sunset suffused
the entire sky with glorious color. But out of the window next to
her seat, all Marge could see was a dark and threatening sky, with no
sign of the sunset.
As the plane's engines began to roar, a gentle Voice spoke within
her. "You have noticed the windows," He murmured beneath the roar
and thrust of the takeoff. "Your life, too, will contain some happy,
beautiful times, but also some dark shadows. Here's a lesson I want
to teach you to save you much heartache and allow you to "abide in
Me" with continual peace and joy. You see, it doesn't matter which
window you look through; this plane is still going to Cleveland. So
it is in your life. You have a choice. You can dwell on the gloomy
picture. Or you can focus on the bright things and leave the dark,
ominous situations to Me. I alone can handle them anyway. And the
final destination is not influenced by what you see or feel along the
A PERFECT MISTAKE
(Cheryl Walterman Stewart from Live)
Mothers father worked as a carpenter. On this particular day, he was
building some crates for the clothes his church was sending to some
orphanage in China. On his way home, he reached into his shirt
pocket to find his glasses, but they were gone. When he mentally
replayed his earlier actions, he realized what happened; the glasses
had slipped out of his pocket unnoticed and fallen into one of the
crates, which he had nailed shut. His brand new glasses were heading
for China! The Great Depression was at it's height and Grandpa had
six children. He had spent $20 for those glasses that very morning.
He was upset by the thought of having to buy another pair. "It's not
fair," he told God as he drove home in frustration. "I've been very
faithful in giving of my time and money to your work, and now this."
Several months later, the director of the orphanage was on furlough
in the United States. He wanted to visit all the churches that
supported him in China, so he came to speak one Sunday at my
grandfather's small church in Chicago. The missionary began by
thanking the people for their faithfulness in supporting the
orphanage. "But most of all," he said, "I must thank you for the
glasses you sent last year. You see, the Communists had just swept
through the orphanage, destroying everything, including my glasses.
I was desperate. Even if I had the money, there was simply no way of
replacing those glasses. Along with not being able to see well, I
experienced headaches every day, so my coworkers and I were much in
prayer about this. Then your crates arrived. When my staff removed
the covers, they found a pair of glasses lying on top." The
missionary paused long enough to let his words sink in. Then, still
gripped with the wonder of it all, he continued: "Folks, when I tried
on the glasses, it was as though they had been custom-made just for
me! I want to thank you for being a part of that."
The people listened, happy for the miraculous glasses. But the
missionary surely must have confused their church with another, they
thought. There were no glasses on their list of items to be sent
overseas. But sitting quietly in the back, with tears streaming down
his face, an ordinary carpenter realized the Master Carpenter had
used him in an extraordinary way.
(Author Jimmy D. Brown)
When I was about twelve years old my dad took a friend and I to the
carnival. We purchased an armband and entered the gates. We were
awestruck at all of the blinking lights, the throng of people, the
voices disappearing into the night air, and, most of all, the
numerous rides. We heard the shrieks of joy from those who were
riding on the various rides in the carnival that night. Their faces
were lit up much like the bright lights and you could see grins so
wide that it seemed their faces would split open from their
excitement. It looked like so much fun! Each ride that we came to
looked more exciting than the previous one. And, yet, we had no
money. My dad had paid for the armbands and told us we were on our
own. Without any money, we were left to watch everyone else enjoy
themselves. We were standing around, miserable, wishing my father
would come and get us out of that place, when we heard him say to
us . . .
"Hey, you two. What are you doing?"
"We are just watching these people on the rides," I replied.
"Why aren't you riding any of them," my father asked.
"We don't have any money to buy tickets," I continued.
"Son, don't you know that the rides are included in the price that I
already paid. Your armband gets you access to all of the rides."
We were stunned. We had no idea that we could have been enjoying the
carnival to its fullest extent by just taking advantage of what my
father had given us.
Sadly, there are many Christians just like my friend and I at the
carnival. They walk around miserable, seeing others at peace, seeing
others filled with joy, seeing others content and free . . . They
are miserable as they watch . . . wishing their Father would come and
get them out of this place.
And, then, maybe, they hear His voice. "What are you doing?" He
"Watching these people enjoy themselves," they reply.
"Why aren't you enjoying yourself?" the Father asks.
"We can't afford the tickets," they continue.
"Son, daughter," God calls. "Don't you know that they are included in
the price that I already paid? Jesus did more than just save you, He
gave you a life of blessing. He did more than just reserve you a
place in Heaven, He gave you a wonderful, anointed life here on
earth. Don't you know that it's included in the price He paid?"
Many Christians walk around with a brightly colored spiritual armband
on, never realizing that it gives them access to all of the blessings
that Jesus Christ offers. They're at the carnival . . . but they're
not riding any rides. Jesus died to give you life . . . abundant
life. He promises you peace, joy, contentment, assurance, victory and
confidence. Don't be satisfied to simply wear your armband . . . get
on the rides!
Copyright © 1998 - 2008 by Stephen J. Hall - Weekly letters of
encouragement to Christians written by Stephen J. Hall unless
otherwise indicated. Notes from the Valley and Humor from the Valley
are meant to brighten your day and encourage you along the way. If
you have something you'd like to contribute to a future edition or
would like to ask us a question or make a comment, please contact us
Your love, God, is my song, and I'll sing it! I'm forever telling
everyone how faithful you are. I'll never quit telling the story of
your love . . . (Psalm 89:1-3 The Message)