a blog written by Jennifer Lynn
The apartment I live in at the moment isn’t exactly the Ritz hotel. I have to admit that when I was first given a tour of the place a few years ago, I was definitely not impressed. It was smaller than my last one, the fridge and stove needed a good deep cleanse to say the least and the walls were painted an unsightly off white-yellowish colour. Needless to say, it didn’t exactly scream “home” to me. But, luckily, I am able to see things as they can be and so, just like my apartment before this one, I got right to work.
The first thing I did was paint. Even the most uninviting spaces can be salvaged with the right colours. I tend to like warmer colours. When I walk into my place I like to feel warm and cozy so that’s exactly what I set out to do. Thankfully I was able to get into the apartment before moving in so that I could paint. Once I got started it didn’t take me very long at all. It’s something I actually enjoy. Turning a new place into something that feels like a home. Just turn some music on and away I go!
When I got to the kitchen, there wasn’t much I could do except scrub it clean and paint. The cupboards were a really outdated brown. The backsplash and countertops leave something to be desired but I couldn’t do anything about that. It’s extremely tiny and for someone like me who enjoys being in the kitchen, it’s not very inspiring. But I did what I could. I painted all the cupboards, drawers and walls pure white. (The only room in the house that I actually prefer white.) My mom and I scrubbed the appliances until they were sparkly again. I did the best I could with what I had to work with and compared to what it looked like before, it looks great.
I continued to paint the rest of the rooms, sweep and mop the floors, hang curtains, pictures etc. After living here a few years, I can honestly say that although it’s not where I thought I’d be living at this point in my life, when I walk through the door, it feels like home. It’s warm and cozy and it’s mine. I turned something that was an eye sore the first time I saw it, into something that I look forward to coming home to at the end of the day/night.
Apartments are great for decorating. And even as women, we “decorate” ourselves by wearing make up or dressing up for a night on the town. But, as I’ve learned over the years, something that isn’t so great for decorating? Our situations. Our circumstances. Our feelings and emotions. Decorating any of that stuff never leads to anything good. In fact, that’s it right there…it actually leads us nowhere. It keeps us stuck and comfortable in our mess. I’ll show you what I mean.
Probably the most famous chapter in the entire Bible is Psalm 23. Most people, even those who wouldn’t identify as a Christian would recognize it to some degree. King David wrote it to be put to music. He was a songwriter (one of the main reasons I love the guy). In this particular Psalm, David talks about God being our Shepherd, and we are His sheep. He cares for us, leads us, guides us. But verse 4 is specifically what we’re going to dive into here. It says:
“Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)
What is interesting about that verse is the part that says how we walk THROUGH the valley. We start on one end and keep walking until we reach the other side. The valley represents challenging times in life. We all experience them at some point. No one is exempt from difficulties. I understand as well as anybody that while it can often FEEL like an eternity while we’re in it, we aren’t meant to stay there. But so often that’s exactly what happens. Instead of allowing God to walk us THROUGH the hard times we face, we stay put right in the middle of it, buy the land, build the house, decorate it, move in and call it home.
It’s so easy to get comfortable in our mess. We look around us and when we can’t see a way out we think to ourselves, oh well, guess I’ll stay here and make the most of it. And while the sentiment behind that may be true to a certain extent, (staying positive etc); our minds, our emotions can play tricks on us. We buy into the lie that this is all there is. That it will never end. Never stop. No way out. No hope. Before we know it, what started out as a few tears, has now become an ocean of emotion that now threatens to pull us under.
A couple of months ago I was having coffee with a friend of mine. On that particular day I was feeling a bit sorry for myself. At the end of our conversation, as we were both getting up to leave, I muttered out that I was feeling like a giant loser. My friend quickly responded with, “no you’re not a loser.” To which I rebutted, “I know, but I’m allowed to feel it.” To which my friend then again responded with, “And anytime you say it I’ll keep telling you you’re not.”
Our feelings and emotions were given to us by a loving and gracious God. They are absolutely necessary to help navigate us through life. When we hurt, we cry. When we see injustice, we get angry. When something is funny, we laugh. Listening to a song or watching a good movie can stir up all kinds of feelings and emotions. But so many times, if we’re not careful, our emotions can become the enemy.
You’ve probably heard the saying before: You can’t keep the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.
In other words, we can’t always avoid going through the valley. But we can keep the valley from getting in on the inside of us. We’re allowed to feel things. Hurt, anger, sadness, heartbroken etc. It’s actually extremely important to allow ourselves to feel these things when they happen. It’s critical to the healing process. But what can keep us from becoming fully healed and whole again is when we allow our circumstances or our emotions to take root on the inside of us. This is what has the potential to cause bitterness and unforgiveness. If anything will prolong a “valley season” it’s these two.
I’ve had my share of valley seasons. Some self inflicted, some from the choices of others. Either way I’ve learned very quickly that while it’s okay to feel and to hurt and to process, staying there permanently is deadly. I know for myself that while it can seem comfortable and cozy and even convenient to decorate my grief, my sadness, my bitterness etc; what I want even more than that is joy, peace of mind, healthy relationships, a zest for this gift of life that I’ve been given and the taste of victory. The good news is all of that is possible. It isn’t hopeless. What we read in Psalm 23 says it all. He provides, refreshes, leads, guides, restores, protects, comforts, vindicates and offers relationship with Him.
Something that I keep telling myself lately is that however I may feel some days, in light of eternity, when I see Jesus face to face, none of the hurt will matter anymore.
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” (Revelation 21:4)
I know the valley is deep. The walls are so high. I know it’s dark and the shadows play tricks on you. But it’s just that: a trick! It’s just a shadow. It’s not really there. We have nothing to fear in the valley because HE is with us. He knows the way out to the other side. All we have to do is get up and open the door.