“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4
Can I be honest with you a minute? As much as I love the mountaintop experiences, there are valleys in life to contend with. I never much liked the valleys. Actually, I hated them. They seemed dark, lonely, deep, and wide. As I look back over life, it is in those valleys that I grew the most in my spiritual journey. A few years ago, we were allowed to walk through a valley so deep, so wide, so full of shadows as our world was turned upside down from several traumatic events. This deepest valley was our most painful. Recently God revealed an answer to a young wife’s desperate prayer years ago. This was not the only revelation from this valley of shadows, but one I just realized. If only I knew what was to come.
The journey through this valley is difficult. But not to fear … we have an experienced and loving Guide to walk us through it. His rod and staff are a great comfort and we only need to follow Him closely since He knows the path well. Want to come along? You’ll need to grab comfortable and sturdy hiking shoes, a compass, a tent, and plenty of Living Water. I think it’s going to be a long trip through this valley. Usually the valleys are hidden between the beautiful mountain peaks and we never know when one will be necessary to pass through to get to the next peak. The Guide knows though. I only need to trust His lead.
Our first descent into the Valley of Shadow feels more like a gorge and we are falling off the side of a cliff. It was a long way down. Painfully, we fell until we hit the first ledge. Our dear brother, who was in much pain himself, took his life. Why? How? Our questions beat against the sides of the cliff. My husband wrestled in his soul, to lose his best friend and hunting pal was utterly painful. Though not by blood he was my brother, too. He loved deeply and called me his sister. The Guide was there with us on that ledge speaking softly into our wounds, encouraging us to hold on to his hand. We grabbed with all we had and held on tight…for the next fall was coming soon.
And it came… even more painful than the first fall. The ledge we landed on this time was narrower and slanted. My beloved Father-in-Love was ushered into his Reunion Day with his Lord Jesus just a few short months after our brother. My heart could barely feel it’s beat. God used this dear man to heal my wounded heart from a painful relationship with my dad. Ours was a sweet Father-Daughter relationship the last 15 years. We buried him two days before Christmas. Our Guide is there again, speaking soft words of hope and encouragement into our broken hearts.
The days and months went by and the promise of Spring was on our doorstep. A perfect time to venture outdoors and enjoy the sunshine and fresh air. Working in my gardens, witnessing new life was very therapeutic for me. There was still a darkness, more like a shadow. Did you know when you are in a valley in the mountains, the sun is only visible for a short part of the day? Shadows dominate. But there is enough light to see beauty where you are. My Guide was there with me, walking behind me, sitting in the grass as I gardened, quietly waiting. He was faithful to show up every day and stay with me through the long painful nights where nightmares of loss would visit. How thankful I am for his presence during that time.
Remember my desperate prayer? Yeah…my husband lost his job just nine months after Dad’s Reunion Day. Are you kidding me? What more? But something is different now. We leaned into the truths that had been spoken into our lives over the past several months. Our Guide will never leave us or forsake us. He loves us dearly. He will provide our every need if we only trust him. So I did. I sat with him daily for words of truth and strength to get through yet another loss. But hold on…the last fall is a doozy.
I’ll be honest, I started to question, “where are these green pastures spoken of in the Word”? Where are the still waters? My Guide reached out his hand and gently led me to them. My mind could not comprehend how there could be such beauty amidst this torrential pain. I spread my blanket out and laid down in the soft green grass and listened, drinking in the Living Water of the bubbling brook beside me. In this green pasture, we were blessed with a sweet granddaughter. We called her our Sunshine in the Clouds. What joy she brought us as we played on the blanket together. I wanted to stay here and rest though it was still darker than I’d like. The comfort of My Guide’s presence as he sat with me day after day speaking words of truth into my soul was life-giving. Preparing me for what was to come next.
Shortly after the job loss, my husband went in for a routine doctor visit. Something wasn’t right and he was sent to a specialist. Tests were done. The results? Cancer. Advanced. Aggressive. Stage 4 Cancer. We fell into the darkness of the gorge. Now at the bottom, the wounds from the previous falls split open. The sides are too steep and rugged to climb out of. To be honest, I had no energy to climb anyway. I sat there, battered from the fall and screamed at the top of my lungs…NO MORE!!!! I raised my shield of faith and yelled at the enemy of my soul, “NO MORE! You will NOT take my husband!” I refused to be taunted by this fear of fears of living life without him. Gut-wrenching sobs poured out as I dropped to the ground, face down until the surrender…Thy will be done. Then a warm blanket of peace was placed on me by my Guide.
I took my Guides hand and begged him to show me the way out of this. And you know what? He knew the way out. The path seemed daunting, but he was my strength. He carried me most of the way, to be honest. Slowly. Steadily. We made our way out of that deep dark valley of death shadows. I chose not to fear…now there was a feat in itself…to surrender to the journey! Fear kept nipping at my heels as I pushed forward. Sometimes it wrapped itself around my head until I could barely see in front of me. But my Guide would always pull it off and help me to see clearly again, putting it under my feet where it belongs. He reminded me that I am a overcomer.
The journey is long and hard out of this valley, but there are green pastures to rest and be renewed and experience unspeakable joy. While in Nevada for cancer treatments, we were given another blessing. Our little Joy Boy was born to our daughter. I never knew I could love a baby more than my own children, but my grandchildren…oh, my heart! The love poured out and wounds healed by these little ones. These two Littles gave us even more resolve to make it out of the valley of shadows.
Are you still with me? Did I lose you along the way? This morning as I was spending time in my chair, writing in my journal, praying and worshiping, I am reminded of that dark time. But also of the desperate prayer as a young wife over my husband that God would do a work in him so he could be home more. He was exhausted physically and emotionally as he gave his life to his job that left him empty when he was home. It was frustrating and was not good for our family to have him gone so much. He was doing his best to provide for us that allowed me to stay home to raise our children. I knew that and am so thankful for it, but it was lonely and hard. I prayed for change. My perspective however was far different from God’s, but I believed in line with his will. Little did I know we were headed for a crash course of trusting the One that brought us together.
The losses were great and almost unbearable…but God! So much was taken from us…from my husband. I certainly don’t believe for a moment that it was God teaching us a lesson, but I do believe God used it for good in our lives as an answer to my longing and desperate prayers. God allowed my husband (and me) to be stripped of all those things that we were putting faith in. Church. Relationships. Jobs. Health. So that we would only look to Jesus for identity and strength. God brought my husband home. He’s home more to spend time with not only me, but his children and our beautiful grandchildren. He and I travel together…for a job he loves or on great adventures sometimes like to Colorado or China! Or we can just sit and watch a movie together eating popcorn.
Like Job in Scripture, God allowed the enemy to steal much from us only to bless us with so much more. What’s more? God used this time to address my own fears, disappointments, and soul issues. I had put so much of “hope” and “joy” in my husband…my Knight in Shining Armor. My future, my strength, my identity…all wrapped up in my him. I needed a fresh perspective that my HOPE is in God. My JOY comes from Jesus, which I learned and continue to learn is dependent on the strength and perspective I choose to embrace in the midst of it all.
The valley’s in life can be beautiful places of healing, rest, revelation and peace. They are not to be feared because I have a Guide that will bring me through. I need only take his hand. I know that the hard places he allows also come with opportunities to exercise such faith in him that will bring about blessed results and greatly glorify his name. God’s timing has both healed and strengthened me and has prepared me for His next place of blessing! Oh the mountaintops!!
“I realized that the deepest spiritual lessons are not learned by His letting us have our way in the end, but by His making us wait, bearing with us in love and patience until we are able to honestly pray what He taught His disciples to pray: Thy will be done.” ~ Elisabeth Elliot
Thanks for walking with me into this valley. May you find rest as you take off your hiking shoes, spread out a blanket, and delight in the green pastures he brings you to.
In His Will, Is our Peace~