I imagine that after God restored Job's losses and was blessing his latter days, Job was the friend you would go to when you were down and out.
Here is a man who had seen it all and lost it all. Not only was he acquainted with grief, he had well-meaning friends who shook the salt shaker over his wounds.
Job's response to his dark situation was to bring his brokenness to the Lord. His immediate response was, "Naked I come from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord." Job 1:21
He didn't harden his heart or curse God. He didn't take his situation as liberty to rebel and "get his". He acknowledged the depravity of his situation and took it to the Lord (even in praise).
I know people like this. Transparent, soft-hearted, God-fearing people who have experienced the valleys and have emerged blessing God, with an eternal perspective and empathy for other valley dwellers.
I imagine Job wouldn't say much to friends at their lowest. He wouldn't tritely console, "God won't give you more than you can handle" or "smile- everything works for good!" He would have taken a seat next to a griever in the mud, perhaps ripped his own robe in empathy, and had a long sit. For God can be sovereign with a wonderful plan ahead, and we can still need some good, puffy-eyed crying and wailing.
It is our tendency, isn't it, to try to shield the ones we love from too much hurt? Isn't that what leads to trite "cheer up" statements and attempts to distract someone from dealing with where they really are? "You just need a drink"..."a night with the guys"... and on and on until we find ourselves trying to skip the whole 'valley' season. The idea that to be filled with faith means not struggling is not found in Scripture. Anywhere.
I'm not discussing self-pity or wallowing, I'm describing the hard work of grief, loss, speaking Truth to previously held wrong beliefs, searching God and your own soul.
A soft-hearted, God-fearing valley dweller knows that as heart-wrenching as it is, the dirty work needs to be done in the valley. It's not a place to rush through. They celebrate with a friend who has a breakthrough but aren't put off if the next day is a giant leap backward. They speak truth in a way that acknowledges the heightened sensitivity that brokenness brings. They put away their own wish that 'everything would be normal again' and get comfortable in the mud.
Unfortunately, you don't become a person like this without experiencing your own valley. In fact, you can walk through a valley and still not respond with the dependance on Christ that brings forth soft-hearted empathy.
My husband knows grief. When he meets a fellow valley dweller he is eager to share Habakkuk 1:2, "O Lord, how long shall I cry, and you will not hear? Even cry out to you 'Violence!' and you will not save."
It doesn't sound like the voice of encouragement but it is the voice of acknowledgement: "What you are going through is real pain. You have real questions. God allows you to wrestle. God wants you to take your anger, pain, hurt, and drop it at His feet." That is something we can understand even with mud in our eyes.
By the end of Habakkuk he says, "The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer's feet, and he will make me walk on my high hills."
Habakkuk didn't magically come to that conclusion. He experienced it in the valley. The Lord brought him to truth because he was honest; he was holding onto the Lord and not letting go. The book of Habakkuk isn't simply a question with an answer. It's a journey.
My constant prayer for myself and loved ones is not to skip the valleys but to allow God to work miraculously in them. My prayer is that we not become hardened or defensive but would respond with soft, pliable hearts willing to be broken and restored.
Imagine how we will then hear the voice of God and subsequently walk with others as they too hear.
I completely realize that this picture negates the tone of my post...but I can't help it. This pathetic little guy depicts what it feels like to go through a "valley". Henceforth when I go through life's turbulence I will be imagining this scraggly creature- he may have had the *#@! beat out of him but his head is held high!