The reality of an often repeated statement, made to me in the first hours and days of my sorrow, has hit me hard. As it is said, I know that the truth of this statement is undeniable, "you will never get over this." I rejected the concept at first or maybe I just wrestled with the fact that I did not want such a pronouncement made over me. It made me feel so powerless and I was already aware of how powerless I was to prevent this tragedy. As the pain bore down upon my soul and pressed into my heart, I found myself accepting this truth, that I would never get over this. Believe it or not, the hour soon came when I did not want to get over it.
I do not think God wants us to get over loss, sorrow and pain. The
twenty-third Psalm indicates that the Shepherd of our souls does not
lift us up and over the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Psa. 23:4 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.
Did you see the key word in that verse? It was the fifth word from the
beginning in this translation. It is the word "through." It is God's
way to lead his people through the hard things in life not over them.
We somehow develop a set of expectations of God. We expect, I suppose,
that if he goes to such sacrificial lengths to save us that keeping us
from all harm, danger and loss would also fit into his job description.
He is by the way, a good shepherd. When we actually do suffer great
loss, we then have the expectation that he will lift us up above it,
twirling in the sky above our pain, seen by all. This is untrue not to
mention unreal and ultimately selfish. We can also contrive that
having suffered great loss and the accompanying pain that we deserve
some sort of break in at least the immediate future. This too is
How terribly hard it is to sit with my adult son, struggling with the
pain of loosing his mother, who believed in him and loved him through
great struggles from birth to manhood. The cry of his heart is like
mine. Why? I hear a loss of confidence in the goodness of God in his
voice. I struggle with that one also. Deep down there is this
expectation that we could live life and escape this kind of pain. We
are not wide-eyed idealist. We have had our share of hard knocks and
pain before. This one, however, caught us blind sided. This is not
what we expected.
I have always believed that my journey in life was a walk with the
Lord. He is my shepherd. I knew that the road was scheduled to endure
some dark and difficult valleys. Loosing her was just too terrible a
thought to entertain in its fullness. So, beyond the shutter it would
bring, my mind would shake it off like unwanted rain and press on to
the immediate. That is what we do when we face the unthinkable. Most
of us have plenty of distractions in the immediacy of life.
Then it happens. We find ourselves standing on the shadows edge
looking into a darkness that is unspeakable. We want to run but where
do we go? Time presses us into the grief. In a confusing swirl of
emotions, most of which are horrible, we step into the unknown. The
canyon walls are steep and straight. They move upward higher than any
building in New York. They rise up and press in. The closest feeling
at this moment would be the most intense homesickness you ever
experienced as a child, multiplied by terror a million times. A
fearful sense of doom surrounds you. You expect to touch it in the
darkness at any moment but you never do. You step one foot forward,
then another. Soon, in the dark you realize that He is with you. His
Spirit wispers encouragement but it is hard to grasp what he just said.
He is patient with our pain and he understands. Often, he repeats
himself without any sense of pevishness or impatience. It is here you
remember that he is the good shepherd. You are his sheep and he is
leading you through no over.
He led the three Hebrew children through not over the fire. He refined them through some of the most intense persecution ever experienced by human beings. Through this he brought an empire to it's knees and taught us about the price of true worship. He led Abraham and Sarah through infertility with encouragement and a promise. He led obstinate Hebrews through desert sands to bitter watering holes, because he had a plan. The Lord is our shepherd. We shall not want.
One word gives me hope in this valley. It is the word "through." Through means I will make it to the other side. What does that world look like? I do not know and I will not speculate even thought it is my nature to so. The confidence I have at this moment is based soley upon a promise. Psa. 23:5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows." That is a different kind of promise that we would contrive for ourselves. It is not the removal of danger of the possibility of future hurt. It is greater. It is the promise of victory in the presence of real enemies. It is the promise of an anointing, a blessing from God, a power to face anything as long as we are walking with our shepherd. It is the promise of an overflowing in my life from the hands of my loving father who killed the fatted calf and hired a band the day I returned to him. He will not withhold any good thing from me. He is good. He is worthy of my life, my praise, my love given back in obediance. He leads me through not over. I do not want to wake up one day in some dreamy place where there is no memory of his greatness, his provision, his power manifested in me. I want to wear this wound as a badge of honor and glory to him. I love him! Beyond words, I return my love in the currency of trust.