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Thankful for the Valleys

You’re probably expecting the traditional Thanksgiving post, nudging you to list what you are thankful for. Normally, these lists consist of the many blessings in our lives from our family, to our home, to our job, etc. Today, I want to ask you to refocus your gratitude. It is easy to thank God for the good times, the promotions, the obvious blessings, the yeses, and prayers answered the way we wanted. However, when was the last time you thanked God for your trials?

I have witnessed a recent pattern of my sisters in Christ entering a season of trial, after trial, after trial. It seems like you’ve been taken on a tour of the valleys, and you’re wondering when this tour will begin ascending up to the hills. So many times when we’re right at the heart of the valley, experiencing its depth, we only have room for that present, immediate experience. We see it as a trial, a tribulation, sometimes even deeming it an attack. It is only in hindsight that we are able to comprehend how God used that valley to grow us and stretch us, and dare I say qualify us for our next season or our next level in Him. Let’s expand on the qualifying process. When you apply for a job, there is a certain hiring process you must follow. This may begin with e-mailing your resume and cover letter to the HR Department or filling out a general application form and attaching your resume to it. Unless the HR Department likes what they see and feel your credentials are relevant to the job you have applied for, this may be where it ends for you. If they see something they like and feel you are worth learning more about, they will move you onto the qualifying process. Depending on the nature of the job, you may have to agree to a background test and/or drug screening. You may be asked to complete a few assessments that will allow them to get to know you a little better as far as how you think, make decisions and whether or not you fit in with their organization’s culture. Let’s be honest, this part can be uncomfortable, nerve-wracking, or cause you to overthink your answers because on the one hand, you want them to get a feel for the real you, and on the other hand, you do not want to answer in a way that will cause them to overlook you and move on to the next candidate. Here is the key you are at risk of missing if you focus on the negative: if you are being tested, if you are being screened and you are being held under the microscope, if your decision-making abilities and thought processes are being questioned, you are in good shape. Yes, I said it; you are in good shape! You are in good shape because you have already moved on from Phase I. HR saw something special in you, something worth exploring further, and you have just moved on from a candidate to a prospective hire in their eyes. The results from this point forward are highly determined by your response and in how you navigate this next phase. It will determine whether or not you are deemed qualified to move into your new position. Did you catch that, Sis? Alright, let’s take it back to the valley! Your time spent in the valley is not meant to hold you back or keep you down or oppressed. It is meant to stretch you and grow you, and QUALIFY you! It is your assessment period, your screening period, your qualifying process. It is the time where your credibility is being tested. I’m using the analogy of a job interviewing process, but I’m really talking spiritually here. Are you who you say you are? When you ask God to use you and qualify you, do you mean it? Do your credentials and your resume add up to the position you are walking into? Do not be offended or discouraged when this is brought into question. See it as the opportunity it is for advancement. Take the assessment and walk in confidence knowing you have receipts to backup your resume, even if they are unconventional. No one said they have to fit a certain mold. I know you’ve seen the jobs that will hire you without the educational background if you have had the professional experience to make up for it. It’s the same in the valley. Maybe you don’t have a Ph.D. in theology, but you’ve been through a few things, you’ve learned from every valley and every trial, and you have submitted to God’s pruning process. How does it go? “We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 NKJV When we choose to walk with Christ, we are not exempt from the persecution, the trials, and the tribulations. If anything, we are more of a target. But understand it’s greater than your naked eye can see. “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NKJV Your time spent in the valley is working for you. Did you hear that? Your trials are working for you! That low place is TEMPORARY! That’s why it’s important to understand what you are asking for. It’s good to want to be used by God. You ought to want to be used. He wants to use you. But the same way you would not hire someone to care for your children without a few tests and combing through their background with a fine-tooth comb, God will not just throw you out there and send you to do His work without first qualifying you. Now catch that, I didn’t say he will not call you if you are not qualified. I said he will not send you without “qualifying” you. Get your qualification in this season, Sis, and graduate from the valley with joy, ready to work!

I’d like to encourage you to engage in a quick activity for me. The Psalmist taught us in Psalm 23, that it was God’s rod and His staff that comforted him in the valley. If you research the two, you will learn they are tools used by shepherds to discipline, protect, and guide their sheep. Take a moment to record on paper times you spent in the valley, and then God’s rod and staff comforted you. What did you learn from that season, looking back?

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