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Persevere in the Valley of the Unknown

I first joined the word of the year movement entering into 2019 after enduring a difficult year.  My word for 2019 was persevere and it held great personal and spiritual meaning. I encountered circumstances in 2018 that caused me to turn to God only after I had exhausted all personal efforts and found myself buried even deeper as a result of my failed attempts at self sufficiency.

Isn’t that usually how it goes? We attempt to solve a problem with every ounce of self before we turn to the One who actually has the power to change our situation?  If only we were not such a stiff-necked people when it came to dependence on God.

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Persevere to Hope

Persevere made sense. My goal was to continue pressing forward even though I knew the road was paved with difficulty. I persevered through the storm as it continued in 2019 with a few breaks in the storm clouds here and there. I made it through. My faith was strengthened as well as my personal discipline. I read through the Bible cover to cover for the first time in my life, one day at a time 365 days in a row. I felt led to pursue writing and finally took some major steps of obedience in that direction.

I saw prayers answered as God provided me a community of believers I had been praying for. I formed deeper spiritual relationships with some spiritually strong women, added some new friends, and even stepped out in faith to share the words I had kept hidden for so long with complete strangers! I had persevered through the ongoing storm and accomplished something. Or had I? 

Looking back, my version of persevere still had some element of self-control to it. Although my focus was on the power of God and his sovereignty, I still thought my role was more vital than it actually was. Have you ever been there?

It was time for some personal reflection.

Upon deeper examination, I was humbled to realize although I had handed God the reigns (as though He didn’t already have them in the first place) and obediently accepted my position as a passenger, I still held on to the map of where I thought we should go.  Why are we turning left when we should be turning right? Is this an alternate route to our destination?  It’s not as pretty as I had expected.

What does it really mean to trust?

I thought I fully trusted Him to get me where I thought I should end up. But when 2019 ended and I had not arrived at this destination yet, I questioned God as the driver.  Why are we not there yet? What is taking so long? Why are we driving straight through the storm instead of going around it? Isn’t there a more efficient way? You are God, after all.

Oh friend, how this realization troubled me. My heart was not quite there. How had I still not learned to fully trust? I had spent nearly two years working on what I thought was surrender only to find out I had surrendered my circumstances but not the overall outcome.  In other words, I knew God was in control of every situation I encountered but I thought that meant He would use those things as stepping-stones to arrive at a predetermined destination.  A destination predetermined by ME.  Does it coincide with His will? Absolutely!  But is it up to me? Absolutely not!

Surrender the Outcome

But what if the destination is not really the goal? Could it be He was telling me the destination didn’t matter as much as the journey and until I surrendered the destination I would not be able to receive the full benefit of the journey? If I was always looking ahead to the destination, was I taking in the scenery along the way?  I thought I was.  Perhaps, if I’m honest, there were just a few moments when I had grown weary, reclined my seat and said, “Wake me up when we arrive.”

At the time, I thought those moments demonstrated trust in God. I could rest knowing He was in control.  Yes, this is true. But what if I had missed a lesson in those moments where I grew weary and decided to tune out for a bit? What if I had been fully awake and engaged in the journey through the desert but then grew bored and weary only to miss the wonder of the Grand Canyon?

Persevere Into Faith

I continued my reflections on 2019 as the year came to and end. I had some tough questions without concrete answers.  Had I become bored on the journey only to be awakened by resurgence of the storm? I knew God was in control of all storms. But I was still afraid.

I know we have all been there, even the disciples had felt this after personally witnessing Jesus perform miracles. How could I be so hard on myself when those who had witnessed Jesus’ power first hand still felt they were going to drown despite being in the presence of Jesus?

The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?

Matthew 8: 25-26 NIV

This scene has become all too familiar. The storm is swirling around us, we know Jesus is there, but we still feel unsteady. Unsure. Waves threaten to drown us. Doubt creeps in. Jesus, why are you not doing something to stop this?

Confidence in the Storm

My friend, that is exactly what faith is. The belief that He will calm the storm even when all we can see are the waves crashing before us, threatening to consume us. It is persevering even when the outcome is unknown, or even unlikely. Faith is believing in the impossible because you know the God of all possibilities.

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

Hebrews 11:1 NIV

The word persevere had taken on a new meaning. What had started out as determination to get through the storm had transformed into a renewed faith in the One who calms the storm. It was no longer about getting through it. I didn’t need to see the storm calmed or arrive at the destination on the other side to believe He was in control and I would not drown.

Eventually, 2019 came to a close and seamlessly turned into 2020. I had renewed both my focus and my faith. Although I felt strongly led to a new word in December after weeks of searching for one that felt right, I admit I was not quite sure what it would mean or if it was even the right word for me.  

My next post will reveal more about my word for 2020 and how it is absolutely my word to grow in this New Year.

Where do you need to trust more?

What journey have you been trusting God with? Does the road look like you expected? How do you remain faithful when your journey leads you through the path of a storm?


    • Jen Roland

      I love this: “Could it be He was telling me the destination didn’t matter as much as the journey and until I surrendered the destination I would not be able to receive the full benefit of the journey?” I’ve been known to focus so much on the goal that I miss the sights along the way. Like you, I want to recline my seat and ask God to wake me up when we get there. But, as a wise friend recently shared with me, life really is all about the journey. It’s about who we become in the presence of God as we surrender to the work of the Holy Spirit within us. Thank you for the reminder to let go of the outcome to trust in the Lord and appreciate each step of our journey.

  • Pamela Sikora

    This blog post resonated with me. I think of myself as a “map person”, studying the most efficient and alternative routes to get to my destination. I’ve heard it said in several sermons and keynote speeches that God is more like a GPS, giving just the next step and inviting us to trust Him for the eventual outcome. My journey right now is recovery from exploratory brain surgery in June. I had surgery in May 2014 to remove a cancerous tumor and was inpatient for 3 days, experiencing the emotional after-effects from anesthesia and radiation (oddly relaxing) plus chemo (oral pills rather than infusion). Everyone said I was a miracle and I agreed! It was easy to give God the glory then. The more recent surgery, however, was more invasive and affected a different part of the brain. I’m still having balance issues and trouble making judgments–both fast (I like long lines at restaurants where I don’t know the menu by heart!) and accurately (I know the answer is “no” but I say “yes” anyway…grrrr.) Bottom line: I am no longer permitted to drive, which is an inconvenience even though I realize it’s for the best, and I have to keep a cane and wheelchair nearby. My husband or 16-year-old athletic daughter can push me around; the 13-year-old is not strong enough yet. Going up and down steps is my biggest challenge, so I have to use the elevator (big blessing!) when going from the ground-floor sanctuary to the second-floor coffee bar between services. All of this puts a huge cramp in my identity as a miracle! But I am learning to trust the journey and be thankful for any progress I see, and to avoid resentfulness when my family thinks I’ve made zero progress since July 1. Saying “thank you” when given a correction is a big part of the last challenge, and I am re-teaching myself to say it as I continue to teach my kids. After the last surgery I felt like an 80-year-old; after the most recent one I feel like a 2-year-old learning gross motor skills! Trust, trust, trust…

    • Heather Jeffery

      Pamela, I am so glad you found it helpful. I work as a physical therapist so I have personally witnessed all of the troubles you mentioned and I can see how it would be very frustrating. The best thing about God is He is capable of accomplishing way more than we could ever plan for ourselves. I pray for your healing and visible progress as well as the long term picture of His work through you. When I am easily resentful or frustrated I find a quiet place and read the Word, listen to music, or sometimes just confess and pray for my own attitude. Trust me, I have to do this often. 🙂 Your faith through this journey will have such an impact on your daughters!

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