Once upon a time (for real) – I dwelt in a place the Bible refers to as “the valley of trouble.” Trouble can be a combination of unrest, disorder, distress, and anxiety. In an actual definition a valley is referred to as a low point, a depression. The fusion of those two words describes my then secret life. Sexual abuse stole my self worth, my dignity, my ability to be trusting, replacing it with – well, trouble! It caused me to lose hope.
VALLEY OF TROUBLE
The Canaanite city of Ai was renamed the Valley of Achor, which means “trouble” in the Hebrew translation, so also referred to as the Valley of Trouble. The Israelites suffered defeat in battle there because a man named Achan had BURIED banned spoils of war under his tent (Joshua 7:1-21). His evil was exposed, so to this day the Valley Of Achor serves as a reminder of failure, of desolation, and of defeat. For those of us who live with the repercussions of abuse, our troubled soul serves as a reminder of our deepest, darkest secrets and lays siege to our ability to see hope past any of it.
DOOR OF HOPE
BUT the Valley of Achor was later ALSO referred to by the prophet Hosea as a DOOR OF HOPE. “I will transform the Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope.” (Hosea 2:15 KJV) Wait. I need to look up the word GATEWAY. A gateway is a means of ENTRY to a place – the way IN. Hope is the OPPOSITE of a bolted door. WOW. MY valley of trouble – YOUR valley of trouble (whatever that means to you personally) yes, God CAN turn it INTO a door of hope, even a place for joyful singing, and finally – a resting place. He can do something extraordinary and unexpected that changes our future. Let’s put it in THESE rearranged words – I will transform a bolted door of trouble into an open door of hope.
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 13:12 NIV) What is ‘hope deferred’? It is when something or someone you are waiting for is delayed or held up; withheld, postponed or suspended. You know that feeling – like, waiting for Christmas boxes that were late. OR if your dinner date NEVER showed up. These are small measures of hope deferred. Now, larger major disappointments (like abuse with no healing balm for its pain),the inability to conceive – these bring deep depths of sickness to the heart. This causes you to despair and that is where hopeLESS comes into play.
SWEET AROMA OF HOPE
In our worst moment, on our worst day – there is this delicate fragrance that unexpectedly drifts into the room – like the soft fragrance before a fresh spring rain, or the sweet aroma from a dark valley (valley of trouble…) full of perfumed wild flowers, you can just detect it.This is hope. You immediately just feel revived by something silent yet powerful, that stirs your heart to believe anything is possible. This is hope. To hope is to confidently EXPECT. I have learned that really, there is only ONE place I find hope that will NOT fail me. Jesus. Real and authentic and unfailing hope IS Jesus.
“You were the voice in the desert,
Calling me out in the dead of night.
Fighting my battles for me;
You are my rescue story.
Lifted me up from the ashes,
Carried my soul from death to life,
Bringing me from glory to glory.”
(Rescue Story by Zach Williams)
DEM DRY BONES
Ever hear this old spiritual song – “Dem bones/ Dem bones /Dem dry bones, Hear the word of the Lord.” It is titled “Dem Bones” (or Dry Bones) and was written in the early 1900’s by James Weldon Johnson and his brother, J. Rosamond Johnson. The words were inspired from the book of Ezekiel where the prophet visited what he called “the valley of dry bones, and he prophesied how those bones would one day be resurrected back to life! Wow.
The thought of there being NO hope is literally THE worst thing we can imagine. Dry bones are really the best visual of hopelessness. Bones have no life. Bones are the final remains of each of us. That’s about as grim, broken and hopeless as anything I can imagine. “They say, Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.” (Ezekiel 37:11)
So yes, bones are dry, but also shatterproof, so no doubt they purposely speak of resurrection in the Jewish tradition. “O ye dry bones, hear the Word of the Lord. Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you and you shall live.” (Ezekiel 37:5) Oh, what a promise for every seemingly hopeless, lifeless situation we may find ourselves in! Oh, what a promise for every seemingly hopeless, lifeless soul we stand in the gap for.
BONES WILL LIVE AGAIN
“Therefore prophesy and say to them: This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel.” (Ezekiel 37:11,12) Hope will arise from GRAVES! WOW! Bones will LIVE again. What a visual of hope for any of us who have ever felt like all the air was sucked out of us, and we were just coughing up dust!
In Hebrew, the word hope (Tikvah) means expectation. It also means a rope or cord, which comes from a root word meaning to wait for or to bind. When someone says they are ‘hanging on by a thread’, this is hope. It shows up when you least expect it and need it the most. Let us take the much needed journey up and out of the valley of trouble, through the OPEN door of HOPE.
Lost among the shadows,
buried by what once was.
Shrouded by the darkness,
captive in death’s jaws.
From the ground a song of hope is rising.
Life has come to the broken.
No more sorrow, no more crying
Heaven has spoken.
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