There's a difference between believing in God and believing God. A huge difference, and for much of my life, I was stuck there.
Yes, I believed that God existed. I knew it and never doubted it. But I did - and sometimes still do - doubt Him. The Words He said and the Words He gave often feel like they're contradicting my life. Believing in God? I'm good. Believing all He says and all He promises? That's where I struggle. Does it make me unspiritual to say so? Oh well. Then I am.
His Word says, "...the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you" (Deut. 31:6). It's hard to believe that (and easy to doubt it) when everyone else has left and you can't feel God anywhere. Doubting it is easy because we try to fit Him into the mold that other people have made for us. People leave. People forsake. We doubt God because we believe He is like people. News flash - He isn't.
His Word says that his plans are to prosper us and not to harm us, to give us hope and a future (Jer. 29:11). While this is ultimately true, it may not in the immediate appear that way. When Joseph's brothers threw him into the pit in Genesis and Potiphar's wife lied and caused his imprisonment, he suffered in prison and must have wondered how this was God's good plan to prosper him. How was this plan giving him a future? Here's how - without the pit and prison, he never would have been in a position to be elevated in Pharaoh's palace. The pit and prison were intermediary but necessary steps on the way to God's ultimate plan.
This is where we so often falter - "We get stuck in our circumstances because we forget God's already been where we're going" (Pastor Mark).
Our lives look like puzzles, and we become consumed looking at one tiny piece, forgetting there's a beautiful picture being made, albeit slowly. We look at the only pieces we can see, trying to understand how they fit - and trying to force them when we don't understand. As Pastor Mark reminded us, "You don't have to understand to trust God." There's such freedom in that statement. Trust frees us from trying to figure it all out. It reminds us that our loving and grace-giving God only has our ultimate good in mind, so we can release the pieces into His capable hands and just trust.
But here's the rub: we want the blessing from God, and we want it now. We want the pit and prison to quickly be removed and to be elevated to our palace. We look for it and demand it. But if God can't trust you in the pit and prison - the valley you are in - then He can't trust you with the blessing. Joseph's position in the palace would never have been his if he had turned his back on God in the prison. So often we try to climb our way out of the pit, thinking it was never God's plan for us to be there, while all the while He was trying to get our attention and make us palace-ready in it. Valleys build stamina for the mountaintops; pits prepare us for palaces. Sometimes the greatest act of faith is to stand still in the pit, lacking understanding, and say, "I will trust you here, and I will wait for your perfectly-timed deliverance."
No place you are is accidental; no valley is unplanned. Delivery is coming - your job is to allow your faith to be built and your heart to be prepared. Genesis 50:20 reminds us that the pits aren't permanent and that God's working in them all. "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done..." We might not be able to see what’s coming, but we can stand in assurance of Who is coming. The Deliverer whose plan is only for our good - both in the pit and in the palace.