Everyone faces Valleys of Disappointment/Displacement/Disagreement more than once in life. For the sake of our future success it is vital to learn how to successfully traverse these Valley of Dis…!
Genesis 26 (MSG) There was a famine in the land, as bad as the famine during the time of Abraham. And Isaac went down to Abimelech, king of the Philistines, in Gerar.
2-5 God appeared to him and said, “Don’t go down to Egypt; stay where I tell you. Stay here in this land and I’ll be with you and bless you. I’m giving you and your children all these lands, fulfilling the oath that I swore to your father Abraham. I’ll make your descendants as many as the stars in the sky and give them all these lands. All the nations of the Earth will get a blessing for themselves through your descendants. And why? Because Abraham obeyed my summons and kept my charge—my commands, my guidelines, my teachings.”
6 So Isaac stayed put in Gerar.
7 The men of the place questioned him about his wife. He said, “She’s my sister.” He was afraid to say “She’s my wife.” He was thinking, “These men might kill me to get Rebekah, she’s so beautiful.”
8-9 One day, after they had been there quite a long time, Abimelech, king of the Philistines, looked out his window and saw Isaac fondling his wife Rebekah. Abimelech sent for Isaac and said, “So, she’s your wife. Why did you tell us ‘She’s my sister’?”
Isaac said, “Because I thought I might get killed by someone who wanted her.”
10 Abimelech said, “But think of what you might have done to us! Given a little more time, one of the men might have slept with your wife; you would have been responsible for bringing guilt down on us.”
11 Then Abimelech gave orders to his people: “Anyone who so much as lays a hand on this man or his wife dies.”
12-15 Isaac planted crops in that land and took in a huge harvest (reaped in the same year a hundredfold). God blessed him. The man began to prosper, continued to prosper, and became very prosperous. He accumulated flocks and herds and many, many servants, so much so that the Philistines began to envy him. They got back at him by throwing dirt and debris into all the wells that his father’s servants had dug back in the days of his father Abraham, clogging up all the wells.
16 Finally, Abimelech told Isaac: “Leave. You’ve become far too big for us.”
17-18 So Isaac left. He camped in the Valley of Gerar and settled down there. Isaac dug again the wells which were dug in the days of his father Abraham but had been clogged up by the Philistines after Abraham’s death. And he renamed them, using the original names his father had given them.
19-24 One day, as Isaac’s servants were digging in the valley, they came on a well of spring water. The shepherds of Gerar quarreled with Isaac’s shepherds, claiming, “This water is ours.” So Isaac named the well Esek (Quarrel) because they quarreled over it. They dug another well and there was a difference over that one also, so he named it Sitnah (Accusation or Hostility). He went on from there and dug yet another well. But there was no fighting over this one so he named it Rehoboth (Wide-Open Spaces), saying, “Now God has given us plenty of space to spread out in the land.” From there he went up to Beersheba. That very night God appeared to him and said, “I am the God of Abraham your father; don’t fear a thing because I’m with you. I’ll bless you and make your children flourish because of Abraham my servant.”
25 Isaac built an altar there and prayed, calling on God by name. He pitched his tent and his servants started digging another well.
26-27 Then Abimelech came to him from Gerar with Ahuzzath his advisor and Phicol the head of his troops. Isaac asked them, “Why did you come to me? You hate me; you threw me out of your country.”
28-29 They said, “We’ve realized that God is on your side. We’d like to make a deal between us—a covenant that we maintain friendly relations. We haven’t bothered you in the past; we treated you kindly and let you leave us in peace. So—God’s blessing be with you!”
30-31 Isaac laid out a feast and they ate and drank together. Early in the morning they exchanged oaths not to interfere with each other. Then Isaac said good-bye and they left him in peace.
32-33 Later that same day, Isaac’s servants came to him with news about the well they had been digging, “We’ve struck water!” Isaac named the well Sheba (Oath), and that’s the name of the city, Beersheba (Oath-Well), to this day.
The name of the Valley of Gerar has an interesting meaning: “to sojourn (stay temporarily); be dragged off, to chew over, chew the cud, ruminate.”
Have you ever felt like a sojourner – wandering without a clear sense of purpose?
Have you ever felt like you’ve been dragged away from something you love; or had something dragged away from you?
Have you ever felt chewed over, chewed up, spat out?
Have you ever been disappointed? Displaced? Had an ongoing disagreement?
Have you ever had to start all over again?
Have you ever felt like every time things start to go really well, someone or something comes and dirties the water?
Secrets for climbing the Valley of Disappointment/Displacement/Disagreement:
#1. Learn from the mistakes of the past
In trying to protect his life, Isaac made exactly the same mistake his father Abraham had of pretending his wife was his sister. It didn’t go well for Abraham the first time, and it didn’t go any better for Isaac the second time!
Some valley experiences are simply of our own making.
Us: “God, what are you trying to teach me in this valley?”
God: “Stop making the same dumb mistakes!”
Let’s not be the kind of people who continually repeat the same mistakes over and over, so we can get on into the valleys and mountains that are actually worth climbing.
#2. God’s purpose might look different to your picture
God’s got a wide-lens, big picture, panorama view. We’ve just got a zoomed-in snapshot cropped to fit on a postcard with a message from God saying, “I wish you were here.”
God told Isaac, “Stay here and I will be with you and bless you.” He was, and He did, but then things changed! Did God lie to Isaac? NO! Was God taken by surprise? NO! Did Abimelech interfere with God’s plan or was he part of God’s plan to get Isaac to move to Beersheba? I DON’T KNOW! But what I DO KNOW is that the Bible says:
Proverbs 16:9 In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord directs his steps…
Proverbs 19:21 Many are the plans in a man’s heart but God’s purpose prevails…
Psalm 37:23 The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord…
Romans 8:28 All things are working together for good for those who love God…
#3. God can prosper you wherever you are
Isaac prospered even though he was surrounded by famine. My memory of this passage was that “began to prosper, continued to prosper, became very prosperous” (Gen 26:12-13) came after Isaac had gone through all of his disaapointments/displacements/disagreements. But on reading it again I realised, this was only the beginning and more trouble was still to come. However, Isaac prospered he was when sent away, prospered when he was moved on, and prospered when he settled.
#4. Learn how to dig a well
A well symbolises a source of life and refreshing for you AND others. Wells can be experiences, wisdom, insights, revelations, examples. If we want to be refreshed ourselves, as well as be a source of help and blessing for others, we need to uncover old wells that we have dug and wells that others have dug before us, by reminding ourselves of lessons learned, or things God has spoken about previously.
We also need to continually dig new wells – i.e. not relying only on the past, but also continually learning, growing, and progressing.
#5. Choose your watering hole
Why would we want to drink from a well called “Quarrel” or “Accusations” or “Hostility”? Yet so often that’s what people do! They keep drawing from bitter wells and wondering why it leaves a bad taste in their mouth.
Remember Gerar means “to chew over, chew the cud, ruminate.” Chewing the cud has to be one the most disgusting things a cow does! Chewing, regurgitating, chewing again, regurgitating again, over and over. What cud of quarrels, accusations, hostilities have you been chewing over, ruminating on, and regurgitating? You can’t change the past. You can only change the future by the decisions you make, and the actions you take, today.
Maybe it’s time to move on and dig a new well in some area of your life. God’s got a wide-open space of blessing for you even greater than before!
#6. You can always start again
Just remember that the way you end something, is the way you will begin the next thing. Make sure you finish things well. People who never finish anything always struggle to get beyond the Valley of Dis…
#7. Show grace to those who hurt you
You just never know when your paths may cross again!
#8. Say good-bye to your past and leave it in peace
In the famous words of Elsa…”Let it go!”
#9. Don’t find fault. Unlock the vault
There is a Vault in your Valley containing great treasures of wisdom, learning, favour and blessing – for you and others. We get to choose whether we will find fault in the valley, or unlock the vault.
Vault finds: Value (something of worth). Fault finds: Loss.
Vault finds: Validation (proving of purpose & character). Fault finds: Failure and doubt.
Vault finds: Valour (strength & resilience). Fault finds: Fear & discouragement.
Vault finds: Valentines (new loves and passions). Fault finds: Bitter resentment.
Vault finds: Valets (people to do the journey with). Fault finds: Isolation.
Vault finds: Valedictories (goodbye to the past & hello to the future). Fault finds: Prisoner to the past.
Whatever your Dis… has been – do yourself a favour and say goodbye to that Valley so you can move into the blessing of God in and through your life ASAP! In the words we love to sing to fans of a losing opposition team at the football…“Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey hey, good-bye!”