The Valley Of The Shadow Of Death

This is a road traveled by many. So many that my mind floods with examples…. and empathy. From failed marriages, to the loss of a loved one, paralyzation, disease, miscarriage, loss of a job, and so on. Life can be so cruel and dark and lonely at times. Life can bring great joy, but it also serves us with tear-jerking, soul-wringing, gut-wrenching pain and trauma. We wonder how we survive at all sometimes.

I think of the heartache we encounter. And I can’t help but weep. I think of our response to it all. I think of our process through it all. How do we get from Point A to Point B when the bottom has simply dropped out? I don’t even feel like I have the authority to answer that question. So, I won’t. But, I do know what deep, dark places feel like. I know what the vultures of our joy sound like over head. I know what starvation for saving and a longing for hope’s rescue to come feels like. There’s a crazed desperation inside. A cavern so deep that it simply can’t be filled with one wave of the wand. The valley…. is a valley. It’s a deep dip in life’s surface that carves you out hollow. It’s cold and vacant and void of life at every turn. It’s a dark pace and you long so deeply to see a bright red exit sign. Only, there’s no exit sign, just a dimly lit path ahead. A  path that must be taken.

The valley of the shadow of death is real. So real.  There’s an accompanying white knuckle grip that circumstantial change will come. That a miracle will occur and life will begin again… whole and untouched by adversity. Why does a God so great and kind stir such torrential desperate waters in our soul? How does a God so powerful and all-knowing allow such ailments to visit us? Again, I don’t know the full answer to this, but I do know what resilience and hope looks like. It looks hot like a fire in a desert that warms your coldest places. It tastes sweet and bitter simultaneously. And the cry inside for rescue raises an octave or two as we throw our hands in surrender admitting our weakness to prevail. Adversity brings us to our knees, to the end of ourselves.

How do we begin again out of the hollow places where hope has been deferred?

We choose.

We choose to take the next, best, right step forward down that dimly lit path. We choose to believe in our worth and we anchor strong in our destiny. We sometimes get a tattoo or six to remind us who we are. We brand our hearts with truth that no matter how deep the valley we can RISE. In one, small step at a time forward we can find ourselves through the valley and at the base of a mountain ready to climb. We are weakened by tragedy, but ready to climb because we know now what surrender feels like and what slow motion looks like.

We choose.

We choose to believe in the power that resides within us to write our own story. To turn the page when the time is right. To put pen to paper and script our way forward. To write our way out. Hope is a powerful driver for the way forward. Hope in ourselves. Hope in a God that’s orchestrating all things for our good. Hope in our neighbor and friend and even enemy. Hope that the view on the top of that mountain to climb was worth every second in the valley of death.

Hope is the path forward. It’s a cold and broken hallelujah. With HOPE we can choose to rise. Be stirred today. The path may be dimly lit, but take one, small step forward at a time. You are WORTH the rising. The sun is coming for you. The mountain top is waiting for you. There are beautiful things to see just ahead for you. There is a filling of joy and peace and resolve and strength coming to fill the hollow places. Stir your hope today. This world is a better place so long as you are in it.

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life” -Proverbs 13:12

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