The emerald valley folds us in a warm embrace as we follow the trail through thick skunk cabbage. The little one at my side tells me his legs are getting tired, and I pat him on the back.
“Don’t stop now,” I encourage. “This is when your muscles get stronger.”
He doesn’t say a word, but he nods his head, and I catch him reaching to check his biceps. We hike another mile, and he doesn’t complain again though he does stop to check his biceps a few more times.
Later, as the stars sing their silver songs through my open bedroom window, I reflect on the day and smile at my little boy’s tenacity. He’d do just about anything for bigger muscles, and I could learn a thing or two from his determination.
Our family has walked through some uncharted territory throughout the past year. Like so many families in this unique season in history, we’ve navigated challenges we never imagined facing.
I applaud moms who homeschool their kids, but it wasn’t in my plan to do that with mine. This past year, I got a glimpse of their lives as I supported my oldest two children through months of remote learning, all while trying to keep a one-year-old happy and quiet.
I also set aside big goals for my writing career to invest in my family, and I’d be lying to say I wasn’t disappointed. Between the extra responsibilities at home and the painfulness of social isolation, life was and continues to be tough. It’s grueling — kind of like a long walk through a valley that feels like it will never end.
I’ve broken down in tears more times than I can count (which isn’t like me).
I’ve lost my temper and wondered if I was failing my kids.
I’ve looked to the sky and prayed for God to put an end to this long and difficult season.
As I reflect on my life in the starlight, a phrase comes to mind. It’s the same phrase I spoke to my son earlier in the day: “Don’t stop now. This is where your muscles get stronger.”
My leg muscles might not be building strength in this valley, but God is gently reminding me about the heart-work He does in the valleys of life. Our loving Father strengthens our spiritual muscles in the valley of affliction.
I know this is true because I’ve lived it out. The seasons of profound growth in my life almost always coincide with seasons of profound affliction. The longer He asks me to walk through the valley of suffering, the deeper the work He does in my heart.
It’s downright painful to walk through valleys we didn’t choose for ourselves. It’s hard to set our big dreams aside and tend to humble work in unseen realms of ministry, like caring for aging family members, swaddling newborns at 2:30 a.m., and faithfully returning to a mundane job for years on end. However, when we faithfully keep doing the work God has asked us to undertake, we build a spiritual stamina we will never find on the mountaintops of life.
We long for difficult seasons to end, and it’s hard to watch the months slip by without a reprieve in sight. Let’s not lose heart. Let’s cling to these words of truth: “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up” (Galatians 6:9 NLT).
I consider these words in the dusky silence, and I tell God I don’t particularly enjoy the heart-work that happens in life’s valleys. I struggle to juggle the calling He’s set before me, and it’s not the calling I would have chosen for myself. Also, this isn’t what I wanted my year to look like.
In the silence, I am gently reminded that we don’t get to choose the valleys we will face in this life. When God places a difficult assignment in front of me — an assignment only I can complete — this assignment is my calling for the season.
I can choose to grumble and stumble through the season with an offended heart, or I can open my clenched fists, receive the assignment, and work at it with all my heart. In the process, He will use the struggle to make me mature and complete.
I pray you will find the strength to keep pressing forward today, friend. God uses the longest valleys to shape us into the women we are becoming. Don’t give up. Your muscles are getting stronger.Leave a Comment