The shadows lengthen, the sun is obscured by the cliffs on either side of the path. The air is heavy, our breathing labored. I’ve been in this place before. I recognize the terrain, the sights and smells. I hear the rustle of Death’s robe as he follows at a distance. His breath quickens as he draws near in anticipation of his next victim.
We have entered the Valley of the Shadow of Death.
How I despise this part of life’s journey.
And yet, there is much to be seen and learned in this place if those attending the sojourner pay attention. For it is also a place of comfort, of hope, and the nearness of Jesus for those who have entrusted themselves to His care.
This will be a short trip this time, I think. My dear friend – more like a father to me than my own ever was – has bone cancer. He’s fading quickly.
Thoughts of the loss of another beloved one in this place scratch at my raw emotions like a claw. It was just eight years, one month and six days ago that my mother’s journey through this valley ended.
At the same time, sweet memories of the last trip lay play like wispy mist while we walk. We talk of those times, my friend and I. We remember dreams of an angel enfolding Mom in his wings, of watching her play with “baby angels” while she was recovering from her surgery. The outline of a Lion in the picture at the end of her bed (Aslan standing guard!).
I tell him of her decision to discontinue the medication she was on – it wasn’t working; her conversation with the doctor,
“Yes, I am ready to die.”
We talk about how I watched her make the last knot in her “needlework,” poke the needle into the pincushion, and smooth out her last bit of work during drug-induced sleep; the opening of her sightless eyes minutes before she left us – the gift of a final farewell to her family….and the feather that fell from a bird-less sky the afternoon she left us.
It was a painful time, a fretful time, and yet a time of great hope.
It seems that we’re very nearly on the same path once again. I’ve seen that stump before, and that gnarled tree over there, too.
This all sounds so somber and heavy, to tell it in this way. In some ways it is. Thankfully, the separation won’t be forever, though.
For my friend, it is an adventure. “Wow! I’ve never died before. I wonder what it will be like? This is exciting!” was his joyous response when he was given the news. Only someone who knows where they are going can react like that.
And he knows! With barely a backward glance at those of us who will remain on earth, he’s ready – eager to be reunited with his wife. They’ve been separated for two long years.
(She’s been keeping my mom company – I’ll bet the two of them have made quilts for each of our homes from the finest fabrics heaven has to offer, and painting pictures to grace our walls.)
We’ve talked for many hours about what lies beyond the gossamer-thin veil that separates this world from the next. We’ve spun some exciting stories about things we hope to do and see. The most amazing activity we long for is our first face-to-face visit with Jesus Himself. Oh, what will that be like? we wonder.
Our favorite topic is: What will we be doing a million years from today? We will certainly be doing something! The Bible says we will be like Jesus when we see Him. That’s AWESOME!
Did you ever read in the Bible about the stuff that Jesus did after He rose from the dead?
He ate and drank. He could be touched. He was reunited with those He loved.
He flew! Right up into the atmosphere without a jet pack or oxygen tank.
My personal favorite is:
POOF! Now you see Him inside a locked room.
POOF! Now you don’t!
I’m gonna have fun with that one for about the first hundred years.
Yeah, I hate this valley, but it isn’t so bad when I remember that separation will only be for a little while. We will see one another again. Because we know Jesus, we will never see Death, but pass from life to life.
The Bible describes it as
“Mortality being swallowed up by life.”
Now, that’s good news!
Thank You, Jesus, that You have not left us without hope. I will dearly miss my friend, but I’m so thankful that I will not “lose” him. I’ll know right where to find him, and that’s with You.
Thank You for Your comfort and support as we walk through this valley. I’m so glad that it’s only the “shadow” of Death, for Death cannot touch those who belong to You.
I’m glad that we will live forever with You – and never have to deal with death, sickness, sorrow, guilt, shame, or evil forever after. Now that is good news indeed!
There are many compelling lessons to be drawn from the Scriptures and one of the clearest is that sinful and rebellious people can never be forced into repentance. The same act that may cause one person to repent and believe will cause others to hate and despise God! The same Bible sermon that brings the person to tearful submission at an altar of prayer will send others out with pride and a resolve to have their own human way. Students of the Scriptures are aware that the Old Testament prophets and the writing apostles of New Testament times foresaw and proclaimed God’s coming day of judgment-the consummate settling of accounts between the Sovereign God and his rebellious and sinful creation. How desperately we would like to believe that in the face of coming judgment, all lost men and women will cry out to God, but such will not be the case: “The rest of mankind that were not killed by these plagues still did not repent” (Revelation 9:20).
Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand,
by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you— unless you believed in vain.
and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve.
After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep.
After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles.
Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.
For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.
After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches.
In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water.
For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had.
Now a certain man was there who had and infirmity thirty-eight years.
When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be made well?”
The sick man answered Him, “Sir I have no man to put me into the pool when is water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.”
Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.”
And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked. And that day was the Sabbath.
The Jews therefore said to him who was cured, “It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed.”
He answered them, “He who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your bed and walk.’ ”
Then they asked him, “Who is the Man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?”
But the one who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, a multitude being in that place.
Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.”
The man departed and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.
For this reason the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath.
But Jesus answered them, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.”
Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.
Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.
“For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel.
“For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will.
“For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, “That all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.
“Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live.
“For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself,
“and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man.
“Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice
“and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.
“I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.
“If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true.
“There is another who bears witness of Me, and I know that the witness which he witnesses of Me is true.
“You have sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth.
“Yet I do not receive testimony from man, but I say these things that yo may be saved.
“He was the burning and shining lamp, and you were willing for a time to rejoice in his light.
“But I have a greater witness than John’s; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish— the very works that I do— bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me.
“And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form. “But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe.
“You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.
“But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.
“I do not receive honor from men.
“But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you.
” I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive.
“How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God?
“Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you– Moses, in whom you trust.
“For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me.
“But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”