Greetings from the trough of sorrow

Recently I was introduced to the term “trough of sorrow.” It is the time during which an entrepreneur tries to convince people that his or her idea, talent, or product is worthwhile. The consumer remains apathetic during the trough, not realizing the need or value in the item or talent.

If you’re a diehard-sold-out-for-Christ Christian (and I hope you are!), you can relate to being in the trough. When your coworkers or even other Christians think you’re crazy for your integrity, your spouse thinks you’re too devoted to God, or your teens reject the beliefs you raised them with . . . your trough overflows. 

Jesus lived most of his ministry in the trough of sorrow. The religious leaders continually watched him, but only to trap or criticize him. People followed Jesus en masse, but only because they wanted a genie to provide food and healing and political stability. Jesus’ family and even disciples failed to catch on to his true mission during his lifetime. 

Entrepreneurs who endure the trough of sorrow—in contrast to the vast majority who quit during the trough—either get the payoff of people catching on or figure out a way to make ends meet so they can keep going with minimal support.

When we’re in the trough of sorrow for the sake of Jesus, he is with us in affliction. He promised his disciples and us, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18). And he does just that when we open the Word. His Word strengthens and guides us, and he reminds us of the end game (read John chapters 14 and 15).  

And that’s what quitters miss. The payoff seems a long ways off and the labor is hard. Add to that the scoffers and the people living for earthly pleasure, and it seems like a whole lot of trouble for nothing. 

But that just isn’t the case. Not only do we experience God with us during the journey, but he eventually brings us to himself in heaven. The apostle Paul had a glimpse of heaven and reported that the splendor of the payoff is beyond our imagination (1 Corinthians 2:9).

So even if we’re in the trough the rest of our earthly existence, I hope we answer as Peter did when the crowds turned away and Jesus asked his disciples if they were going to leave him too: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).

While you are in the trough, pray for changed hearts and minds. Pray many catch on to the truth of the gospel. And pray that those in the trough remain faithful and know they are not alone. 

Amber Albee Swenson has authored four books, writes an occasional devotional blog, and is a regular contributor to several Christian organizations. In 2011 she started speaking to women with the intent of bringing the Bible to life in tangible, applicable ways.

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