In the Valley of Weeping

Day after day we process searing new images of global conflicts and atrocities. My insides bleed when I look out over Gaza, Ukraine, the US-Mexico border, Haiti, and the spike of violent crimes across America and other nations. It seems we all live with a movie of horrors running in our brains. 

         The damage cuts deeper into our hearts than we may realize. Nietzsche warned plainly, “If you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”[1]

         No wonder anger, fear, depression, addiction, and suicide roar through so many places and people. It’s like a forest fire that burns our sanity into a curled crisp. But the larger issue is, can we find a way to live rationally amidst unrelenting war? How do we—as mates, parents, siblings, and friends—navigate such bloody times? 

Living on the Edge of a Precipice    

In 1939 C. S. Lewis delivered a sermon, Learning in Wartime, at Oxford University just as World War 2 flashed across Europe. Lewis knew those seated before him—students of military service age—were caught in the grip of war and death. Wise man that he was, when he saw that door of responsibility open to him, he walked through it and dropped a truckload of truth. 

       First, he told them war “creates no absolutely new situation; it simply aggravates the permanent human situation so that we can no longer ignore it. Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice.”[2]

       So, how do we carve out a life, a family, a legacy up on that cliff? Perhaps we start by recognizing that the earth is a dangerous place. Always has been. 

       War, conflict, and pandemics are as much a part of life on earth as dirt, gravity, and rainbows. The beautiful balance of the earth’s ecosystem requires that we live with killers. From the micro to the macro, scientists know the earth is wild and perilous. Water, wind, tectonic plates, viruses and bacteria—all things we cannot live without—can bring death as quickly as they give life.

       Yet, our planet has not tumbled from its orbit. 

       Lewis also warned his Oxford audience, “Do not let your nerves and emotions lead you into thinking your predicament more abnormal than it really is.” Perfect counsel for anyone caught in the fog of war—Distrust emotions. Refuse illusions. Reject urgency. Don’t let hysteria stampede your heart. Calm your spirit. 

       Look straight ahead. If we fix our prayerful gaze on any threat or tragedy, the illusions will slowly fade, and then we will see the Prince of Peace standing in the midst of its churning smoke.

Through the Valley of Weeping

Psalm 84:5-6 gives a strange but beautiful view of people whose hearts become highways to the Lord. 

…Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) is the man whose strength is in You, in whose heart are the highways to Zion. Passing through the Valley of Weeping (Baca), they make it a place of springs…[3]

I don’t know what that means. But have you ever known someone who seemed to radiate the Presence of God? Might their hearts become a highway to Him? When Joanne and I lost our son, friends who had walked through the Valley of Weeping appeared before us. Their eyes told us all we needed to know. 

       They brought no holy books, guitars, or grief manuals; they carried love. But through their strength in their God, they lifted us to higher ground. From there, we could see that the bridge to our future had not washed out.

       Everyone carries loss and pain. Some are wounded, others suffer PTSD, and all carry the dust, grime, and odors from the road through the Valley of Weeping. They need to know His embrace. They all need to find oases of refreshment and replenishment for the rest of the journey. 

       Where are they? You’ll find them in hospitals, bars, ball parks, Starbucks, jails, homeless shelters, and many other places. They’re the ones with hungry or haunted eyes. They don’t need much; a smile, a laugh, a touch can help most live through another day.

       Letting God turn your heart into a highway for them gives a way to live in harsh times. It may also give you traction through the Valley of Weeping.  

[1] Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil (New York: Penguin Classics, 2003)

[2] C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory (New York: HarperOne, 1976)

[3] The AMPLIFIED® BIBLE, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by the Lockman Foundation Used by Permission.

9 thoughts on “In the Valley of Weeping”

  1. America needs more encouragement like this Ed. Division of the American people is being fueled by politics, the media, and religion. Only the Lord can keep our vision for the future bright. Thank you again for all you do to encourage us.

  2. That Valley is one we will all traverse at one time or another, or even multiple times during our time on this planet. How good it is to have someone walk along side us as we make our way through it as well as being able to walk along side another making their way through it. No two griefs are exactly the same, but like calls to like and there is comfort in knowing that though no one but God knows exactly how we feel, another person we can physically touch and who can physically tough us knows the depths of what we are experiencing.

  3. I am so grateful for the lights that shine into darkness. At times it seems the world around us is shrouded in pitch black. How encouraging and strengthening it is when someone comes carrying a torch of hope. It is vital that those who have been through desperate circumstances let the comfort they received flow onto those who need it. Often it is communicated with words, but just as often it is nonverbal. A touch or a hug. Perhaps a service of grace. “Say to those who are broken hearted, do not lose your faith. The Lord you God will come with His loving arms, when you call out His name. He will come and save you.” (Bob Fitts)

    Focus on the eternal knowing, the end is not the end

  4. I have been traveling through that Valley of Weeping for the last year. I have found myself much more aware and connected to others in pain, even more than I’ve ever experienced. As I give love and compassion to them I feel a whole new strength in me.
    It is healing to my heart and a precious gift of life to my whole being. Thank you for your words!

  5. When I look too close I get caught up in the chaos and find myself a bit crazy. When I come to my spiritual senses, not my natural senses, I think, ‘What am I doing here? This is worldly. So I drag myself away, and I mean just that, because the chaos is addictive; at least to me it is. And what works best for me is a fast, not of natural food, but of the worldly feed, especially news, and even friends who ferment the same old stuff. So with strong determination I fast all world news and get my eyes above, where the only solution exists. For this old man, it is a sweet pasture where I find Life and Peace and new Purpose. It may sound like a copout, but it is healthy to my spirit first and then to my soul.

  6. As always, Ed, you have crafted words into a masterpiece. I think one of the best lines came from your e-mail informing us of the article. You eluded to it, and explained its meaning, but I love the way you phrased it: “It may give you some fresh thoughts on how to find, or become, a highway through anguishing times.” I love that thought!

    One other thing. I would add churches to your list of where you may find those with “hungry or haunted eyes.”

    I have not suffered the loss of a spouse or a child. I have lost both parents. My dad died when I was nine. I was confronted with “holy books, guitars, and grief manuals.” There is so much bad theology spoken to the grieving. If they only knew that their presence is all that is needed; for them to simply let the love of God radiate and warm the hearts made cold by the loss.

  7. Thank you, Ed, for your thoughts.
    I will try to keep in my mind that, although I think I’ve just gone to the store to buy toilet paper that I may actually be there to be, as you say, “a highway through anguishing times” for a stranger there (The one “with hungry or haunted eyes”.)
    May God grant me the sensitivity to see each stranger, friend, or family member as a creation of God, who may need help on the journey.
    As an old song says, “The road for them that leads to Him just might run through you.”

  8. Yesterday, a welcome report reached us. A good friend, awaiting a biopsy concerning a growth in her neck, gave us the news: it’s benign. We nearly crumpled from the relief this news brought.

    Such news is like a telephoto lens, focused solely upon a narrow field. We feel wild relief when a deep concern is met with healing grace.

    In contrast, a wide-angle lens includes the flood of faces and concerns far beyond the scope of a telephoto lens single face; that can be overwhelming.

    That’s a good time to remember that, like a telephoto lens, we can bring focus upon that one person’s needs, the person we are meant to care for, and together, we can make a difference.

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