The Valley of the Shadow of Death is Not a Universe
Updated: Jun 3
Trusting that someday my joy would return helped carry me through my grief after my twin died.
While in the worst hours I couldn’t even think past the next pain-filled moment, somewhere in the midnight of my sorrow a hope light glimmered.
This hope light was my belief that the Bible is to be trusted when it talks about suffering lasting only for a time.
The essence of fresh grief is that it creates non-stop raw hurt.
The hurt may slam us when we come to consciousness after a night of sleep and catch our breath as we realize, “She’s gone.”
The hurt may crush as we head to a family gathering at a holiday time and become aware that not even this time where everyone is putting extra energy into being happy together will lift our suffocating sadness.
The hurt may shatter our ability to concentrate on doing something we always loved before, like reading a good book or cooking a meal.
The hurt may thin to a wisp of smoke our sense of meaning in most things that we found purposeful before.
The hurt may stab us with anxiety and worry that another tragedy is just a breath away.
The hurt may sap our energy, making it difficult to complete even the simplest things.
The list goes on. You will have other experiences of what the hurt of grief does to you.
Several Bible verses expressing the truth that our suffering will not last forever carried me in my brokenness, but the following two passages were especially encouraging to me:
“In his kindness, God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation. All power to him forever. Amen” (1 Peter 5:10-11, NLT).
“Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest” (Psalm 126:5-6, NLT).
The valley of the shadow of death is just that – a valley. It is not a universe. When our sadness is mangling our hearts, that truth can be difficult to believe. It can feel as if our heavy sorrow is taking up all time and all space in the universe. We may feel as if nothing in our lives will ever change, as if this grief will be all that we ever know and all that defines us to the end of our days.
But the truth is, someday, we will reach the end of the valley.
I pray all of you freshly grieving hearts can trust this is true, even while you may wonder how you’re going to get through the next hour.
(I would like to add that it’s very possible this isn’t just a promise to be fulfilled once we get to heaven. In the worst of my grief, I trusted that joy would come again to me here on earth, even while I knew and believed with all my heart that as a Christian I would someday receive it in heaven.)
But whether it happens in heaven or while we are still on earth, grief has an expiry date. Like a canned good, it has a shelf life.
Yes, we will miss our loved ones till our lives are over.
Yes, each of one of will grieve differently and for different lengths of time.
Yes, we are wounded by grief such that we are never the same again.
But the intense suffering that constitutes raw grief will last only a while.
My point in this article is to encourage you that that level of hurt – where it is the main thing shaping your every moment – will not last forever.
Someday - though it feels like an eternity away right now - someday
we will wake up
we will head to a family gathering
we will do something we always loved before
we will take up a simple task
we will go about our work
and it will come to us that we have changed.
We have become stronger.
Our sense of purpose is sharper.
Our joy is deeper.
We have moved on to a new place in our lives.
Though we will always miss our loved one terribly and always carry the scars that their passing has left, we will look back and see that the valley is behind us. It was not a universe after all.
Grey View Photograph by Micah Strutzenberger 2022