In December 2007, I found myself in a particularly difficult stretch of work. A difficult supervisor. An unchallenging work assignment. A restless feeling of being underutilized, maybe not a little under-appreciated.
I found myself in the Valley of Achor (Hosea 2:14-15).
Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. — Hosea 2:14-15
You probably won’t be surprised to learn that the Hebrew word “achor” means “trouble.”
I think there are a lot of us in this place of “trouble”, especially in today’s economy of scarcity. A lot of us are in debt, maybe unemployed or underemployed, working out family issues, or struggling through personal inadequacies or flaws in our own character.
So, probably like you are doing now in your life, I was praying for a change. In fact, at the time I was talking with a friend of mine who had the means to hire me away from this season of trouble.
What I didn’t know at the time was that this Valley of Achor was the pathway to God’s next assignment in my life.
Out of the Valley of Discouragement
However, my friend with means is also a wise man. When he made the offer to me on that Friday afternoon before Christmas in 2007, he suggested we pray about it over the weekend. I thought, how could a generous salary (30% more than I had ever earned) and importantly, relief from the Valley not be God’s will?
As I clicked “send” on my reply email to my friend, agreeing that we pray over the weekend about this opportunity, I knew immediately this was not God’s will.
In fact, over the weekend I could hardly pray about it—mostly I just negotiated and argued with the Lord (“Are you sure, Lord?” “Really? But this is such a great opportunity!”). On Monday, just as my friend had also heard from God, we agreed that this was not the right time for me to come work with him.
God had spoken—tenderly and clearly. I had heard. It was time to obey—“to answer, as in the days of [my] youth.”
The Birth of a Vision
As I returned to work from Christmas vacation, I was handed a new assignment: To shape a new strategy for engaging new constituents at the non-profit where I worked. My supervisor was still difficult. Not a lot had changed in my circumstances–except now I had been handed a big challenge, a new “God-assignment.” It appeared to be my “door of hope.”
Over the next six weeks, through prayer, study, lots of discussion with the executive leadership team, and pilot-testing, I presented the strategy to my senior vice president. It was new, creative, insightful, and risky. It had all the marks of a God-vision. His wisdom. His leading. It went way beyond what I could’ve come up with my own “might and cunning”. It was indeed my “door of hope.”
Lesson From the Valley of Achor
I learned important lessons through my wilderness experience. Here are four specific truths that God drove deep into my heart through this season of dryness and difficulty: I learned specifically that…
The Valley of Achor is–
— God’s chosen place for you at this time. Look again at the verse above. God says, “I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness.” If you find yourself in a wilderness today, in a dry, lonely, and dark valley, trust that not only does God know you are there, He led you there. He is with you in the valley.
— The place where God speaks to you. It is just as chosen as the days of fruitfulness. Just as chosen as the season of peace. Just as God-directed as the times of rejoicing. In fact, it may be the one place where we are able to hear His tender voice the clearest. Long for it. Listen for it.
— The place where you find hope. Sometimes that door of hope is a new work assignment. But other times it is a life-changing experience that leads to freedom, or intimacy with God, or transformation of who we are. But undoubtedly, it is the place from which springs HOPE.
— A place where God trains us to trust Him. In the valley we learn to walk with Him in the darkness, to discern His voice, and to understand that life’s seasons include these Valley of Achor experiences. Why do I know this? Because I have had two more “Valley of Achor” experiences since this one in 2007. And as I look back over the 30 years that I have personally known the Lord, I see many “Valley of Achor” experiences.
Today I am learning to listen for God’s tender voice and look for the “door of hope.” I am learning that there is perhaps no greater gift in life than to hear God’s voice and experience His hope in this place of need. If today you find yourself in the Valley of Achor, my prayer for you is that you see God’s sovereign leading and listen for His tender voice.
In fact, if there are ways that we can pray for you in your “Valley of Achor” experience, please email us at The 210 Project and we would be honored to lift you up before God at this time in your life.