“No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it is painful! But afterward there will be a quiet harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way” (Hebrews 12:11, NLT).  

It’s natural for a father to discipline his children if he truly loves them (Proverbs 3:11-12). At the same time, we, especially we leaders, face spiritual warfare that our Father allows. He allows it because he lovingly gives us–and Satan to an extent–freewill. But he also allows it, I believe, because he uses it to make us stronger in his kingdom purposes for us.

As leaders, we really need to see this biblical perspective on the deep dark valleys in which we sometimes find ourselves.

“The Valley of the Shadow of Death” Artist: George Inness, 1867

The promise of Hebrews 12:11, as well as Luke 18:1; Galatians 6:9; and many other verses is what you and I are depending on and waiting for in the midst of the valleys, difficult circumstances, spiritual battles, and loving discipline we will go through. Dear leader, know that God will use all of this somehow in his Kingdom. Know that much of what you are going though (or will go through) is spiritual battle with Satan, and know that God’s angel army is fighting this fight with you. Otherwise you could not endure it.

Have you ever noticed the timing of Satan’s attacks? I have. They almost always come just as you are about to bear fruit and it looks like growth and multiplication is ready to happen. It occurs just as you see God using you as only he can in his Kingdom. Satan takes note of all this and begins to tell lies and pull out his bag of tricks. Be glad you’re not fighting alone. God with his angel armies and the power of his Spirit is with you, fighting for and with you, giving you the strength to keep going. He will never leave nor forsake you. He will walk through this deep, dark valley with you. He will use his staff and rod to guide you and ultimately comfort you. And he will give you a peace that passes all understanding in the midst of it (Philippians 4:6-7, 12-13).

Instead of worrying about all the circumstances out of your control that you may not deserve, simply pray and trust God, no matter what happens. Wait patiently but proactively for him. God’s peace — a peace that is impossible to even understand — follows.  

God in his wisdom allows a certain amount of painful circumstances and even depression (read Psalm 6 and King David’s walk through his deep, dark valley) to happen to discipline you and me and build spiritual muscles that make us stronger soldiers in his Kingdom. He will use all this somehow. There will be a harvest.Don’t give up!

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Michael Mack has been involved in small group ministry as a pastor, writer, trainer, and speaker for more than 25 years. He founded SmallGroups.com in 1995 and started Small Group Leadership in 2012. He became the 12th editor of Christian Standard magazine in 2017 and continues to speak in churches about small groups, discipleship, and leadership. He lives in Pewee Valley, Kentucky (just outside Louisville), with his wife Heidi. They have four young adult children. Michael enjoys mountain and road biking with a group of friends. See the "About Michael Mack" page under About Us for more about him.

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