It is easy to forget how many of our patients dwell in the valley.  We go to work, do our jobs and go home again.  And while we have our troubles, many of the people we see have fallen to unexpected depths of pain or grief during the course of the time we saw them; and many will see us, and go out of the hospital only to return to their ongoing illness or their seemingly endless grief.

I know a bit about the valley now, having gone through it with my wife’s cancer and subsequent life-threatening pulmonary embolus.  It felt as if she and I entered a valley of fear and darkness in December and have only in the last two months begun to emerge.

I know that many wonder if they’ll ever come out.  Cancer, heart disease, loss of a child, pains like these may haunt us for a lifetime.  Fortunately, Christianity is a faith that tells us that the valley is not eternal.

This is important.  It would be heartless, and false, for me to say how wonderful it was for us to recover, knowing that others might not.  What I want to say, though, is that for the Christian, the valley cannot last any longer than this life.

Granted, for the non-believer, for the ardent and intelligent atheist, this may seem silly.  I understand completely.  For them, after all, what is there but this life?  Suffering, from that perspective, seems horrible, pointless, endless.

But for those of us who believe, (not with judgment, not with condescension) that Jesus was the Messiah, that he lived, died and was resurrected to give us redemption and eternal life, to us the valley is transient.

Indeed, I was thinking about the Valley of the Shadow of Death, in Psalm 23.  For those who believe that God is their eternal refuge, Death (from an eternal standpoint) can never be more than a shadow, as one of the purposes of Christ’s death and resurrection was to put an end to sin…and death…forever.

When we are in the valley, we can never be permanently trapped in anything more than the shadow of death.  Yes, this life will end in physical death.  But for us who believe, it is not the end.  It is only the final symptom of the disease we call sin, which has been defeated by our redeemer.

The Valley of the Shadow of Death seems long, and hard; and it is cold and terrifying.  But it has an end, if not in this life, then absolutely in the next.

There, the light of God’s love will banish all shadows and elevate all valleys.  And we will never fear the valley again!

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