Pastor George shared a great message last weekend on the 23rd Psalm. He shared about how in verse 4 the "valley" is unavoidable, unpredictable, how no one is exempt, it is temporary, and purposeful. Pastor George shared a lot of great verses and encouraging words, but as soon as he said "purposeful" my memory flashed to Paul and Silas in Acts 16 (I've copied the verses below) Specifically the part about Paul and Silas were
...stripped and beaten with rods. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison...Not THAT'S what I call a valley! I always catch myself thinking, hey, when it's my turn to go through the something like this, can we just avoid the painful part? It's like I want to hide from the valley. Oh, don't get me wrong, I see the value in the valley, I see how in Acts 16 God got the glory and many people came to know Him...but would I avoid the valley altogether if I could? Sure! I hate pain.
I appreciate how Pastor George shared, "God's more concerned about your character than your comfort. He's more concerned about your holiness than your happiness." Sigh... At the same time I found it so encouraging when Pastor George encouraged us to remember that God is with me! He is "Jehovah Shammah" the God who is THERE! (Isaiah 42:2) Along with all that character building, He promises His power, His protection and His presence!
Paul and Silas in Prison Acts 16: v.16 Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” 18 She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her. 19 When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. 20 They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar 21 by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.”
22 The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. 23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”
29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.
35 When it was daylight, the magistrates sent their officers to the jailer with the order: “Release those men.” 36 The jailer told Paul, “The magistrates have ordered that you and Silas be released. Now you can leave. Go in peace.”
37 But Paul said to the officers: “They beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out.”
38 The officers reported this to the magistrates, and when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they were alarmed. 39 They came to appease them and escorted them from the prison, requesting them to leave the city. 40 After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and sisters and encouraged them. Then they left.