A valley full of bones. I had a vision once of standing in such a valley. Shades of gray coated the sky and the ground. The earth was cracked, barren, hardly a rock touched the clay-like soil, and yet bones were strewn across the valley floor like discarded candy wrappers. If there was a word to encompass what this valley was like, it'd be "cold."
When God brought the prophet Ezekiel into such a valley (Ezekiel 37), he asked one question: "Son of man, can these bones live?"
Ezekiel's response was perfect. "O Lord God, you know" (v. 3).
Can these bones live...? The obvious answer upon first glance is, of course not. Bones cannot be alive apart from the organs that pump blood and breathe oxygen, or apart from the muscles and tendons that hold the pieces together and inside, and the skin that protects it all from corruption and decay.
Can these bones live? Not alone they can't. The Lord then instructs Ezekiel to speak on his behalf, and then watch. Ezekiel spoke, and from the words of his mouth, words given by God, there followed a sound.
"and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin and covered them. But there was no breath in them" (v. 7-8).
Again, God tells Ezekiel to speak. And again, Ezekiel obeys and speaks. "So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army."
God didn't once speak to the bones himself. He spoke to Ezekiel, and he gave Ezekiel the authority to speak life into the bones and speak breath into the flesh that held the bones together. Ezekiel obeyed, and it happened.
God goes on to tell Ezekiel, "These bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, 'Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.' Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord'" (v. 11-14).
Someone reading this is in her own valley of bones. Whether those bones are dreams, desires, or a relationship, you're staring at a valley of hopelessness. You don't see how things could be resurrected. How could there possibly be movement, let alone life? Sometimes we have to start by speaking what God has given us the authority to speak.
Ezekiel didn't know if the bones were going to live or not. His eyes told him, "no." But he was willing to allow the possibility of life be present with God. Only God knew. He was willing to allow the possibility of life by speaking what God told him to speak - however impossible it might have seemed.
The hard part is Ezekiel had no personal attachment to the bones. He didn't spend decades investing in those bones. He didn't spend sleepless nights on his knees willing those bones to come to life. He didn't spend hundreds, if not thousands, of hours sowing into those bones that now littered a wasteland.
Hope is so much harder to hold onto when you've spent years on your knees without seeing any fruit. After awhile, hope begins to hurt. So we have to ask ourselves - in what are we hoping? The dream? The person? The bones themselves? Or in the one who has the power to do all things?
"Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life" (Proverbs 13:12). What if we let our desire be for Jesus while we continue to hope for what we're waiting to come to fruition?
"O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear" (Psalm 10:17), "He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them. The Lord preserves all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy" (Psalm 145:19-20).
Today set your desire on Jesus while your hope continues for another day. As the desire to quit, the desire to give up, persists, put it off until tomorrow. Today, as God asks, "Will these bones live?" You can turn to him, who is steadfast and reply the same way Ezekiel did, "O Lord God, you know."
Then do what he says to do next. Even if that next step is to wait another day. These bones will live.