Life can be stopped in its tracks by bad news. While the Psalmist says, “They won’t be frightened at bad news. Their hearts are steady, trusting in the Lord” [112:7], the reality is that a middle of the night phone call, a doctor’s report, or even an email, can rock your world.
Imagine, then, the impact of news that means you will have to face something for a second time. What do you do when the journey ahead means a second time in the valley?
An experience with my youngest daughter offered me some guidance. When she was a toddler, she did not like the sensation of going downhill while riding in her car seat. Any time we began a steep descent, she would tense up and begin to whimper. This symptom was exacerbated when a move to a new part of town required a daily drive into a deep ravine called Wintergreen Gorge. Traveling through the valley became a very unpleasant, but necessary path for us to take in order to get home.
One afternoon as we made our descent, I felt led to stop at the parking area at the bottom of the gorge. Pulling into a shady spot, we sat for a moment and then got out of the car. Spotting a trailhead, we decided to take a walk in the valley. The path was lined with a variety of trees, unique flowers, and mossy rocks. As we explored, we held hands, we talked, we laughed, we ran, and at times, we stood in silence listening to the song of the birds. It was precious time together – father and child.
The very next day, as errands led us to descend into that familiar place, my daughter’s whimper alerted me that anxiety was seeping back into her mind. “Sweetheart,” I asked, in a gentle voice, “Do you remember the last time we were here? Remember walking on the trail together?” She was silent as she fought to discipline her thoughts enough to recall that experience. I calmly continued, “Do you remember the beautiful yellow and blue flowers... and that large tree that was lying across the trail? Remember daddy picking you up and putting you on top of it?” Looking in the rearview mirror, I could see that she was wavering between tears and a nervous smile.
As I continued to try to help her remember walking through the valley, her smile slowly broadened. Then, like a breached dam, a deluge of memories seemed to flood her heart and mind. Beaming, she turned the conversation around, barraging me with questions to confirm that I was the one who remembered! With animated voice she continued, “…and dad, do you remember the creek? And that steep hill we climbed up and then ran all the way down? Do you remember that funny stick that looked like a giraffe?”
I was amazed as we continued to drive through the valley. The very place that had once triggered fear and dread now evoked joy as she chose to recall the intimacy of relationship experienced with her father the first time she had walked through it.
There is hope, beloved, as you face a second time in the valley. Perhaps you've been diagnosed a second time with a particular illness, or are facing a second loss, or another financial challenge, or... (you fill in the blank). While your journey through that valley the first time may not have been a joyful place of wonder, I do know that your Heavenly Father walked with you every step of the way. He did uphold you and He did sustain you. Though it was painful, it was a place of discovery as you learned how to trust all over again.
If you are facing a second time in the valley, know this, precious one. You are not the same person that you were when you went through it the first time. You are, indeed, stronger, wiser, braver, and more courageous. You may have been hard-pressed on every side, but you were not crushed. You may have been perplexed, but you were not left to despair. You may have been persecuted, but you were not abandoned. You may have been struck down, but you were not destroyed [2 Corinthians 4:8]. Having survived the journey of "though I was...," you stand in overcoming grace to confidently declare, "but I was not..."
On this painfully familiar path, may you boldly proclaim the words of Jeremiah, "Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him" [Lamentations 3:21-24]. May anxiety and apprehension be displaced by remembrances of His everlasting arms carrying you over what seemed insurmountable the last time. May fear be displaced with the reality of how high, how wide, how deep, how long, how sweet, and how strong your heavenly Father’s love is for you.
With Hope as your companion, you can declare with blessed assurance, “Even were I to walk in a ravine as dark as death I should fear no danger, for you are at my side” [Psalm 23:4 NJB]. Be encouraged, you, my overcoming friend, you will come up out of the valley on the other side, in awe of how God carried you through then and now. Amen.
If this blog has encouraged you, consider sharing it with someone else. It may just be the word of hope that they needed to take another step on their faith journey!