In Vaneetha Rendall Risner’s book, The Scars That Have Shaped Me , she shares an illustration that friends had shared with her. A counselor had asked her friends to make a timeline of the high and low points of their lives, briefly describe each one, and then connect them into up and down graphs. After spending some time on this project, the friends finally finished. Then the counselor asked them to turn their charts upside down. Why? To point out that what we consider the “low” times of life are often the times God is most at work in us, or when we come to know Him significantly better.
“God sees our lowest moments as our spiritual highs because that is when he is doing the deepest work in us…from them come our most significant growth and our greatest dependence on God.”
It’s not that God doesn’t work in the “good” or “high” times: He does, and those are blessings from Him. But it’s usually when we’re experiencing hardship, doubt, pain, need, or other trials that we most seek Him, and, as He promised, find Him. It’s in our weakness that we turn to and depend on His strength.
Vaneetha tried this exercise for herself and found the same observation to be true. She writes:
I often reflect back on that exercise when I’m struggling. Because when I’m in the pit, I’d like to eliminate all the valleys on my graph. I’d be thrilled if the line of my life story featured frequent upward peaks—times of success and fulfillment—but otherwise be mostly flat. That way there would be no more valleys, no more anguish or tears or pain. Just happiness. And that sounds wonderful.
But turning that graph around, I would see a boring, unexamined, and unfruitful spiritual life. An untested life marked by superficiality and entitlement. A life filled with temporary happiness but little lasting joy.
Suffering and trials are gifts. They refine my character, draw me to God, deepen my faith. They have shaped my theology and carved into me the capacity for great joy. In many ways they are God’s greatest blessings.
This gives a new perspective to the phrase “mountaintop experience.” That phrase comes from the time Peter, James, and John accompanied Jesus to a mountain and saw Him wondrously transfigured, talking to Moses and Elijah. Right on the heels of that glorious, once-in-a-lifetime experience, they descended the mountain to find the other disciples unable to help a demon-possessed boy. Often right after we experience some kind of glorious high point with the Lord, we run into a low point, and we wonder what happened and why we can’t feel those “highs” all the time. Vaneetha comments:
In the midst of trials, I rarely feel that spiritual growth is happening. Often I’m depressed and just trying to hang on. Life is gray, and I don’t see God’s work at all. But in retrospect, it is in the hanging on, the trusting in the dark, the waiting patiently for God, where real growth occurs.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9, ESV). What we would consider the lowest points of our lives He might consider the highest points, because those are the times we most turned to Him, leaned on Him, learned of Him, and grew in our experience and love of Him.
And you just can’t beat the view from the mountaintop.
(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Monday, Tell His Story, Let’s Have Coffee, Porch Stories, Faith on Fire)
Every word of this post is a blessing. Thank you! Very timely for my life, at this moment.
What a powerful illustration! I know in my head that God is working during difficult times (blah, blah, blah is what’s really going through my head), but knowing it deep in my heart is another story. Changing the perspective is an amazing blessing!
I agree with Lou Ann – this post is truly a blessing. Thank you.
I, too, agree with the previous posts. Thank you once again Barbara for giving a different perspective.
I loved this, Barbara. I have understood before this that it is in the times of suffering that God is working in my life, but to put it on a graph and see what looked like low times to me being high points for God definitely gives me a special new perspective. Thank you so much for sharing this!
Pingback: Book Review: The Scars That Have Shaped Me | Stray Thoughts
Thank you for sharing this book with us. The title alone draws me in because we all have scars and those usually show up in very defining moments of our lives.
I love having you at #TellHisStory.