Joel Osteen — Blessed in the Dark Places
I want to talk to you about "Blessed in the dark places". We all go through situations in life that we don't understand: company was downsizing, and we got laid off. A friend walked out of a relationship...
Now we're a young lady I met last week, she had been pregnant for 5 months with her first child. She was so excited, already decorated the baby's room, but something went wrong, and she had a miscarriage. She looked like she was numb, no expression, a dark place.
In 1981, my family thought we'd be celebrating the christmas holidays, looking forward to fun and fellowship. Instead, we learned that my mother was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer. It's a very somber christmas.
All of us, at some time, will go through dark places: a loss, a sickness, a divorce, a child that broke your heart. It's easy to get discouraged, give up on your dreams and just settle there, but God uses the dark places. They are all a part of his divine plan.
Think of it like a seed. A seed cannot germinate in the light. As long as the seed stays up on a shelf, it will never become what it was created to be. You have to plant the seed in the soil, in the dark place, so that what's on the inside will come to life. In the same way, there are seeds in you: dreams, goals, talent, potential, that will only come to life if you study the scripture, every person that did something significant went through one of these dark places.
Moses made a mistake and killed a man. He spent 40 years on the back side of the desert, alone, feeling like he had blown it, but in that dark place, something was happening on the inside. It was getting him prepared. He was developing patience, without the dark place, he would've never held up the rod and parted the red sea.
The dark place is a prerequisite to stepping into the fullness of your destiny. Esther was an orphan, a young lady that had lost both of her parents. She felt alone, forgotten. A dark place, but God used her to help save the people of israel. Elijah was so depressed, he wanted to die. A dark place, yet he's one of the heroes of faith. Or david, he had an affair with a married woman, had her husband killed. For one year, he was broken, sick, guilty, yet he's called "A man after God's own heart".
God doesn't send the difficulties, but he will use anything that comes into our lives. In those dark places is where we really grow. That's where our character is developed. We learn to trust, to persevere. Our spiritual muscles are getting stronger. In the dark places, you pray more, you draw closer to God, you get quiet and listen to what he's saying. In those dark places, you reevaluate your priorities, you spend time with your family, you have a new appreciation.
A friend of mine was told that he was going to lose his vision. He had some kind of infection, and he had a surgery and wasn't supposed to see after the operation, but it wasn't what the doctors expected, and they were able to correct it. His vision is perfectly clear. Now every morning, when he wakes up, he spends the first 15 minutes staring at the sunrise, staring at the flowers, you may not realize it, but in the dark places, you're being blessed.
Something's happening on the inside. It's helping you to realign your vision. When you go through enough dark places, you don't complain about small things. You don't get upset because you didn't get your parking spot. You don't lose your joy because you got stuck in traffic. You're not offended because a co-worker was rude to you. You've been through too much to let that sour you. You've got a backbone made of steel.
A person said to me the other day, "Joel, I heard so-and-so was talking about you, and I'm so sorry they were saying that". They meant well. They were being kind, but I thought to myself, "You don't have to feel sorry for me. I buried my father. I saw my mother fight through terminal cancer. I learned how to minister when every voice told me I couldn't do it. I believed for this place when the odds were against us. If I could make it through that, I could make it through somebody not liking me".
But you know, really, that's just like a little gnat that you got to flick away. When you go through a few dark places, it toughens you up. The dark places are what have made me into who I am today. I like the good times a lot better. I prefer everything going my way, but it wasn't the good times that brought out the best in me.
It was the lonely nights, the times I didn't think I could do it on my own, the times that I didn't see a way. That's when I really learned how to pray. That's when I developed an unshakable confidence in God. That's when my faith was stretched and increased.
Don't complain about the dark times. There are blessings in the dark places. God is doing something that can only happen when my father died, I was trying to learn how to minister. I was so nervous to get up in front of people. There were many nights after dinner I would go to my closet to pray.
Victoria would come looking for me, asked the children, "Where's dad"? And she would find me in there praying. Like that in the good times. I never went out of my way to draw closer to God when everything was going my way. It was the dark places that helped me to really develop my spiritual muscles. Even though I didn't like what I was going through, I didn't like having to stretch, I was uncomfortable, I wouldn't change it. It made me better. God uses the dark places.
When Joseph was falsely accused and put in prison for 13 years, the scripture says, as he sat in those chains of iron, his soul entered into that iron. He developed a strength, a perseverance that he could not get any other way.
There are some things you can only learn in the dark places. Quit complaining about what you're going through, who hurt you, how bad it was. It may be uncomfortable, you may not like it, but it's working for you. You're getting stronger. It's developing something that you could only get in the dark. You cannot reach your highest potential being in the light all the time, no adversity, no problems, nobody coming against you. That sounds good, but it will stunt your growth.
David said, "God enlarged me in my times of distress". He wasn't enlarged in the good times. He was enlarged when things as a teenager, he wanted to be out having fun with his friends, but he got stuck, taking care of his father's sheep. Month after month, he was out there alone, nobody to talk to, didn't look like he could ever accomplish his dreams, but those years in the lonely shepherds' fields are what helped prepare him to become a champion.
When he went out and defeated Goliath, people called but the fact is, it didn't happen overnight. It happened because he went through the dark places with a good attitude. When he didn't get his way, when he didn't understand it, when he felt like God had forsaken him, he just kept doing the right thing.
David understood this principle. His attitude was, "God, this is a dark place. I may not see it, but I believe that it's working for my good. I believe I'm getting stronger, developing character, patience, learning to trust".
At the right time, he not only came out, but he came out increased, promoted, better it's not a coincidence that David said, "The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside the still waters, and though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death". David was saying, in effect, "The same God that leads me to the green pastures, the same God that leads me beside the still waters, is the same God that leads me through the valley".
We can all trust him in the green pastures. That's easy. We can trust him beside the still waters. I'm asking you to trust him even in the dark valleys. He hasn't left you. You may feel alone, forgotten, life hasn't turned out the way you wanted, but God is still leading you. The dark places are all a part of the plan to make you into who you were created to be.
It may not be easy, you may not understand it, but faith is trusting God when life doesn't make sense. Dare to believe that he's blessing you even in the dark places, that what's meant for your harm, he's going to use David went on to say, "After you go through the valley, after the dark places, God will anoint your head with oil. He'll prepare a table before you in the presence of your enemies".
Notice, you've got to go through the valley to get to the table that's already set before you. You've got to go through the loneliness, through the betrayal, through the sickness, to get to the fresh anointing, the new beginning. You've got to go through the shepherds' fields, doing the right thing when the wrong thing is happening, through the struggle, the lack, the debt, before you come to your cup that runs over.
Now, too often, we want the overflow and not the valley: "God, give me more favor, more resources, more influence". God says, "Okay, fine, but you've got to be willing to go through the valley with me".
In the dark times is where we prove to God what we're really made of. Can God trust you with more favor, with more influence, with more resources? You have to be faithful in the shepherds' fields when you're not getting your way, when it's lonely. "Well, Joel, I don't like my boss. That's why I show up late to work. He doesn't treat me right. That's why I slack off".
No, if you're not faithful in the wilderness, how can God trust you to be faithful in the promised land? Have a new perspective. The dark places are opportunities to grow. You're not there by accident. If God wasn't going to use that for your good, he would've never allowed it. You may not understand it, it may not make sense, but God knows what he's doing. Pass that test.
When my father went to be with the Lord. It was a dark place, and sometimes when you go through a loss, it's easy to get discouraged and kind of feel like that God let you down, and there won't be any more anytime something is dying in your life, something else is coming to life. It looks like the end, but God has a new beginning.
A friend betrayed you, walked away. That relationship died. At the same time, God is birthing a new relationship. He's got another friend already destined to come across your path. You lost a position, a client, an opportunity. That may have died, but God's already lined up a new position, a new opportunity, a new level, and if you'll go through the valley, trusting, believing, knowing that God is still in control, then you'll come in to the table that's already prepared for you, to the fresh anointing, to increase, to where your cup runs over.
Friend of mine I used to play baseball with many years ago was the star player on the team. He always led the league in hitting and fielding, and his dream was to play professional baseball, and during the summer, he was invited to play on this highly competitive team that traveled around the nation. It was a big honor. You had to be extremely talented. He played that year and did exceptionally well, but some of the players were jealous of him. They started spreading lies and rumors about him.
The next year, the coach, even though he liked him very much, he believed these rumors and didn't invite him back to play. My friend was very discouraged. He tried to get on several other teams, but there was no place. They were already full, and for the first time have anywhere to play. He missed the whole season, no games, no opportunities, a dark place.
He didn't understand it. It wasn't fair, but he didn't get bitter. He knew the same God that led him to the green pastures and the still waters, was now leading him through the valley. Every night, he would go up to the batting cages and keep improving his skills. He kept working out, lifting weights, staying in shape. No games, not treated right, but he knew on the other side of that valley, was the table you've got to go through it to get to it.
Don't get stuck in your valley. Don't get bitter and lose your passion: "Well, Joel, I don't understand why this has happened to me. They laid me off after all these years. They broke my heart. I'm dealing with this sickness. I just don't..." if you're always trying to figure it out, you're going to get stuck.
Think about this: in punctuation, an exclamation point is simply a question mark straightened out. If you want God to take your question marks, the things you don't understand, and turn them into exclamation point, you have to trust him.
In those dark places, where it wasn't fair, instead of wondering, "Why did this happen to me"? No, turn it around: "God I know you're still on the throne. But I believe on the other side of this valley is my exclamation point, the table that's already prepared for me, the fresh anointing, the right people, the new beginning, the new level". If you'll go through the dark valleys like that, exclamation points. You'll see God amaze you with his goodness.
When my father died, I had a lot of question marks: "Would the church make it? Could I really get up here and minister? Would anybody listen to me"? Over time, one by one, as I stayed in faith and went through the dark valleys with a good attitude, I saw question marks turned into exclamation points. "Would the church make it"? "Yes, and here's a compaq center to hold all the people!" "Would anybody listen to me"? "Yes, and here are some number one books. Here are networks that will carry your program. Here's a SiriusXM radio channel!"
Exclamation point, one you may be in a dark place right now: you went through a breakup, somebody broke your heart, you're hurting, you're lonely, wondering if you'll ever be happy again.
I can tell you firsthand, I am a living witness. If you will keep honoring God, moving forward, God will bring somebody into your life better than you ever imagined: somebody kinder, friendlier, that will treat you like a queen, like a king. You won't even miss that person that left you. God has an exclamation point waiting on you.
Maybe in your health, it's a dark place. You don't see how you're going to make it. The medical report is not good. Stay in faith. Like my mother, diagnosed with terminal cancer, 33 years later, she is still healthy and strong, and listen, that's great, but here's the exclamation point. Every week, my mother goes up to the medical center to pray for other people that are sick. That's God making the enemy pay.
Or perhaps it's in your finances, a dark place. You had a bad break, a disappointment, lost a client. You're wondering, "Is it ever going to get any better"? Yes, on the other side of the valley is your cup that runs over: increase, abundance, a new level of your destiny.
You may have been in the valley for a long time, but you need to get ready. This is a new day. You're about to see the breakthrough. You're about to see the overflow. That problem is about to turn around. Don't quit believing. God didn't bring you this far to leave you. He has an exclamation point coming your way.
This is what my friend did, the one that played baseball. One day he was out practicing, what he didn't know was there was a scout from a professional team, up in the stands. This man was there to watch another player, but when he saw how talented my friend was, he called him over and said, "I want you to try out for our team".
That's God putting you at the right place at the right time. God knows how to get you to your destiny. He tried out, made the team, played a couple years in minor-league baseball, then he got bumped up, went to the major leagues, went on to have a long successful professional baseball career, but think about, early on, those other guys, they tried to stop but people don't determine your destiny, God does.
A bad break can't stop you, rumors can't stop you, injustice can't stop you. God has the final say. If you'll go through the dark places with the right attitude, you'll see exclamation points coming your way, the surpassing greatness in the scripture, when Jesus had the little boy's lunch, five loaves of bread and two fish, is about to feed the thousands, he lifted them up and gave thanks. Then it says he broke the bread and it multiplied. Was in the breaking. The more he broke it, the more it multiplied.
There are times that we all feel broken: broken dreams, broken promises, a broken heart. The young lady that lost her baby, as she told me, big tears ran down her beautiful face. She said, "Joel, I wanted this baby more than anything else". When you feel broken, you go through a disappointment, don't get bitter.
Don't give up on your dreams. The brokenness is not the end. It's a sign that God is about to multiply. That's what David said: "God enlarged me in my distress". In that brokenness, it may have been meant to stop you, but God's going to use it to increase you. The loss, the disappointment, the person that didn't keep their word, they thought they were hindering you, but, in fact, they were setting you up for God to multiply.
You may have gone through more than your share of bad breaks, but take heart: the more broken you are, the more God's going to increase. The bigger the disappointment, the bigger the blessing. God has beauty for your ashes, joy for the mourning. The brokenness is only temporary. Now, don't settle in the valley. Don't get comfortable there. The valley is not your home. The shepherd is leading you through the valley. On the other side, there are new beginnings, fullness of joy, great relationships, health and wholeness.