Years ago I heard a song by James Bignon and the Deliverance Mass Choir that stuck with me. Part of the refrain says “hold fast, hold fast, your troubles will not last. There’s a blessing on the other side of through.” Whenever the Holy Spirit brings that song to my remembrance, I feel empowered to hold on for as long as God says I can. Going through can seem ominous, making us look for shortcuts or detours but, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. So even if we have to dig our own tunnel to get to the other side, we may as well get to it. The funny thing is we often pray to God for more, forgetting that more will challenge us. And God really wants us to have what we ask for so He allows our testing to come to make us better, to make us ready. Our trials may often be torturous and the accompanying pain may be excruciating but our job is to learn and to bring glory to God while acknowledging that we will only understand in part, trusting in the one who loves us unconditionally, the one who is omnipotent and omniscient, the one who can see the entire picture. Our current living space is so perverted. Principles and priorities are misaligned, values are misplaced, truth has levels, degrees and perspectives while biases paralyze, maim and kill. It is assured that we will be misunderstood for doing the right thing; we will be mocked for our beliefs. But God cares about our character, not necessarily our reputation; He is building us to last. We may lose much and many but, if we remain steadfast, He will successfully transform our minds for increased understanding – partial but increasing – as long as we do “what’s right, love mercy and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8).”
Brian Banks is fighting to make the 53-man roster of the Atlanta Falcons this season. Many folks with no affection for football and some casual fans of the game will join in with rabid fans of the Falcons in pulling for Brian to make the team. Brian’s testimony has endeared him to many of us. Eleven years ago, Brian was on his way to the University of Southern California, on a full scholarship, to study and play out his passion on the gridiron. Instead, Brian spent almost 11 years away from the game and the pursuit of his dream – to play professional football. On Brian’s 18th birthday, he went to prison for a rape that never happened. His accuser lied because he made her angry (sounds like Potiphar’s wife). The lie was inconsistent and there was no concrete evidence, still Brian went to jail. Unfortunately, Brian’s attorney was unwilling to stare down stereotypes in order to defend her client. She didn’t want to risk a blemish on the record she wanted to carry into her quest to be a judge. She also pressured Brian to accept a plea deal without the presence or counsel of his mother. Brian acquiesced to his attorney’s wishes rather than stand on the truth, the truth that God rejoices in. Stripped down, isn’t that the choice we consistently have to make? Still, God will cause all things to work together for our good (Romans 8:28). Whether we run through, walk through or are pushed through, we will inevitably learn more about ourselves and more about God and His grace and mercy. Brian isn’t bitter and he has been blessed mightily since coming out on the other side of through and it isn’t over yet. The glorious news is God will work with him – and all of us – until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).
There are a myriad of blessings that come to us on the other side of through, not the least of which are perspective, humility, and endurance, all of which make Brian valuable to any NFL team and will get us all closer to the image God sees when He looks at us through the lens of Jesus Christ. We become more effective and compassionate witnesses for the Lord. And just as there are a multitude of blessings that can come to us on the other side, there are many reasons for our journeys through the valleys that look like death. Whatever the reasons, everybody won’t get it and some may fall off but, “if we endure, we will also reign with Him (2 Timothy 12)”. We may have to encourage ourselves and that’s fine as long as we hold fast, knowing our troubles will not last and there are blessings on the other side of through.