The Blessings of Trouble
“Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.” Hosea 2:14-15 (NIV)
When you stop and think about it, this is one of God’s most unusual promises. It is not a promise most people have high-lighted in their Bibles and are claiming as their own. It was written by the prophet Hosea to the wayward northern kingdom of Israel during the period of time when it fell to the Assyrians. (722-721 BC) It reveals however a very important strategy that God uses to effect positive change in our lives.
The Valley of Achor to which Hosea is referring is not a place anyone would want to be. First off it was a hot, dry, dusty desert location. And secondly the Valley of Achor literally means the valley of “trouble.” It was the infamous place where the Israelites, led by Joshua, stoned Achan and his family for stealing the devoted things from the battle of Jericho. In Israeli history the Valley of Achor was a place of shame.
And yet in the wisdom and purposes of God there is really no better setting for God to extend His redemptive grace and change the heart of stubborn Israel. In God’s economy a desert location becomes the perfect spot for whispers of love and a valley of trouble turns into the timely circumstance to offer hope.
Troubling times can have a positive redemptive effect on us if we respond appropriately. Troubles have a way of getting our attention and accelerating change like few other things in our lives. And more importantly, they should draw us closer to God as we seek His consolation and guidance.
From a divine perspective a valley of trouble, as it was for Israel, just might be one of the best things that could happen to us. It forces us like nothing else to reprioritize are lives with regard to things, people and God.
So from God’s perspective here are five blessings of trouble.
1. We listen better. Troubling circumstances not only get our attention, but they also help us pay attention. Crises of any kind create teachable moments that force us to learn valuable lessons. For instance, there is nothing like a health crisis to give someone a crash course in diet and exercise.
2. We change quicker. When trouble strikes we are often much more open to changing the way we do things, especially if it is necessary for our survival. Stubborn habit patterns, ways of thinking and doing things all go out the window pretty quickly when escaping difficult circumstances require it.
3. We love deeper. Difficult times bring into focus how much we appreciate the important people in our lives. The value of close friendships and family soars and we find ourselves reordering our priorities to make loving relationships preeminent.
4. We help faster. Whenever a natural disaster strikes neighbors rally immediately to support and help one another. There is nothing like trouble to bring people together. Suffering increases empathy and sensitizes everyone to wanting to meet the needs of others.
5. We pray harder. Nothing drives people to prayer and repentance and God like trouble. In the grand scheme of things that is the most important and redemptive thing that the valley of trouble should do; motivate us to take God seriously. If only we could carry that same intensity with us when we get out of the valley.
The best news of all about being in a valley of trouble – God is there. He is there to speak tenderly and to offer hope. And He is there to provide consolation and guidance.
All five of these blessings of trouble are meant to be extended into non-troubled times. The lessons learned and changes enacted in our lives should at a minimum be proportionate to the depth of the troubles we have had to face. Let us pray that may be the case. God’s promise to Israel in the next line of Hosea’s prophecy is also a promise to us. It says this “There she will sing as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt.” (15b)
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