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Be Still: Finding the Father's Heart in the Valley

Jason Clark

Surely love and mercy, your peace and kindness will follow me, will follow me.

- Hillsong United, "Be Still"

Several years ago Karen and I were assessing our finances and the fact that we were eleven months behind on our mortgage and two months behind on our utilities. We had less than ten dollars to our name, mostly in loose change, and we had about a gallon of gas in the van. Karen is amazing, her faith stunning. She is well acquainted with our Father’s good love and made a statement that highlights it. “We have food in the fridge. We are blessed and God is so good.”

“God is good.” Sometimes it’s the most powerful sentence in the universe, a statement of profound faith.

“God is good.” It’s true when we can pay our mortgage and when we can’t.

Karen and I are learning that a need met can never be the measuring stick of our Father’s goodness, it can only be the evidence. His goodness and His love will follow us all the days of our lives and will never be measured or determined by our circumstances. This faith is the foundational truth upon which everything else in our lives is built. Karen and I have prayed when she starts to get a migraine: “Father, heal Karen’s migraine in Jesus’s name.” And we have thanked Him for His always-good love as the headache that typically becomes a migraine fades away.

We have also prayed against a coming migraine and watched, feeling helpless, as Karen still got the migraine. And yet we are learning, even in the pain, to hurdle the disappointment that seeks to discourage our hearts, and thank Him for His always-good love.

We trusted God absolutely, financially risking everything to start a company. Karen and I watched God come through miraculously, giving us favor and increase. We thanked Him for His goodness as our company prospered.

We trusted God completely, risking everything financially by giving the company back to Him. Karen and I believed and surrendered through the debilitating season of failed business and substantial debt. We chose to thank Him for His always-good love.

We have prayed, “Lord, protect this pregnancy and our child,” when a heartbeat couldn’t be found. We celebrated days later in the doctor’s office when life was discovered and again when our first daughter Madeleine was handed into the thankful, waiting arms of a tearfully joyful new mother and father.

We have also prayed, “Lord, protect our child and this pregnancy,” when complications became obvious. And weeks later we stood in the doctor’s office, grief in our eyes, as the devastating news was gently broken. On this journey of faith, we are learning, even in the midst of heartache, to trust in our Dad’s always-good love.

Why? Because we have met our Dad and are convinced, and we are becoming more convinced, that our circumstances don’t determine His love. He only has goodness and love for us.

“God shall supply all your needs according to His riches and glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19 NASB). It’s in my Bible and yours. That Scripture isn’t a bumper sticker platitude or a warm feeling or a nice sentiment; it’s a promise that His love is good. It’s disappointment hurdling revelation. It’s the truth. It’s the truth even when we are facing sickness, bankruptcy, or death. It’s the truth even when everything we are experiencing screams the lie.


The Valley

David was a man after God’s own heart. He both started and finished well. His life was a study in mountaintops and valleys.

His story was one of miracles and misses, faith and failure. David experienced some crushing disappointments but somehow never succumbed. He ended well—better than well—he handed increase to the next generation.

I am convinced there is only one reason David succeeded where so many before and after have failed. David did not believe his circumstances were the measuring stick of God’s love. On the contrary, he was convinced that God only had goodness and love for him all the days of his life. And this faith is what defined him. This faith pleased God.

“Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life.” It’s a declaration David makes at the end of his famous Psalm 23 (verse 6). I think this line reveals how David saw God and the core conviction through which every life experience was filtered. It begins with a proclamation of God as the leader and provider of his life.

“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want” (Psalm 23:1).

David declares who God is, a Shepherd, the One he follows. He continues in the same vein.

“He (God) makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (Psalm 23:2-3).

David lets us know that it is God who is leading him and that God is only leading him in good things. Then David’s journey takes a desperate turn, only David isn’t desperate. Notice how the language shifts in this next verse.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil” (Psalm 23:4).

I love this verse because it says something so profound about what David knew regarding God’s love. “God does not lead me into the valley of the shadow of death.”

While David has no problem acknowledging that valleys exist and that there are enemies in those valleys, he gives God no credit for the valley season. David’s faith regarding God’s always-good love for him is mind-boggling. He could follow God’s goodness, experience a valley, and never blame God. Astounding!

Now here is where it gets even better. Once David finds himself in the valley, the language shifts again:

“I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows” (Psalm 23:4-5).

I love these verses! David’s journey once again becomes a testament of who God is in his life. And get this: in the valley the language shifts from the early declaration of He to the first person intimacy of You. David not only knew the valley was not God’s heart for him, but it was this revelation that set him free to know God in a much more intimate way.

I am convinced that David had a greater awareness of God’s presence in the valley because he was never offended at God while in the valley. The valley is a place of intimate access to our heavenly Father and all His presence offers.

Somehow, David understood a New Testament revelation better than many of us now living on the other side of the cross. The revelation? God is love and He is always good. While valleys of the shadow of death exist, God does not create them—His heart for us is never death. The last verse of Psalm 23 shows us that David truly knew the nature of God: “Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Ps. 23:6).

David was convinced that every plan God had for him was good— “surely goodness and love.” How else does David make it through all of his trials and still believe at the end of his life? David was able to maintain a heart after God’s presence because he knew God’s love was always good, that He never oscillates. Because of this, he was able to hurdle the disappointments of the valley seasons in life.

Jason Clark, author of The Father's Heart in the Valley,  Prone to Love and Untamed

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