Vale of Tears

Bringing Rest to Troubled Souls



Bringing Rest to Troubled Souls

It is foolish to tear one’s hair in grief, as though sorrow would be made less by baldness.

During World War II, the Royal Air Force dropped enormous bundles of tin foil to confuse the Nazi anti-aircraft radar defences. They called these decoys “Window”. Grief often leaves us feeling overwhelmed, however, by the amount of “noise” on the radar screens of our hearts.

Most of you will understand exactly what I mean when I speak of such intrusions. One minister I met, however, told me that he only ever needs a few seconds to bring his soul to rest, no matter how great the challenges he is facing. I have the feeling that he and I live on different planets! On the other hand – why waste time and energy “worrying” when the Lord wants us to have confidence in Him?

What we do not need are people brandishing platitudes at us. “Taking a stand in faith” does not mean living in unreality. What will help us are experienced saints who reassure us that the distress we are going through is normal, and who are prepared to stand beside us and love us back to full strength.

As we shall be seeing in the Appendix, “Tension – The Neurosis of Faith,” some of us are more prone than others to experiencing anxiety in the aftermath of loss. For some this is a matter of temperament, for others it is the result of distressing episodes from our past.

Speaking as one who arrived into the world on a hospital floor, with my mother unconscious and no midwife in sight, I understand entirely why people who have had difficult birth experiences are prone to feeling abandoned when too many pressures come their way.

Complications of attachment and separation in our earliest years can have a major significant impact on our emotional development, often causing insecurities to surface during times of loss – for grief is a time when strong emotions rage and old temptations abound. Let’s also face this fact: that in our spiritual warfare, there are no vacations and no time-outs, and the enemy would be missing a trick if he failed to take advantage of our vulnerability.

In C. S. Lewis’s masterpiece, The Screwtape Letters, a senior devil counsels his nephew, a junior tempter, in the ignoble art of luring the devout astray – whether into pastimes of no spiritual significance – or, alternatively, stoking their passions until they become ensnared in foolish affairs.5 In either instance, serious spiritual warfare is going on behind the scenes.

Bearing this in mind, it is worthwhile checking from time to time to see whether grief is causing us to be consumed with some particular line of thought. Our waking thoughts are often an indication of where our dominant thoughts lie.

Each of us must bring our deepest longings to the Cross in the full assurance that we are loved and accepted at the deepest level of our being.

Reflect and Pray

As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted.
Isaiah 66:13

In his excellent books The Freedom of Simplicity, and Prayer, Finding the Heart’s true Home,6 Richard Foster shows how Christians through the centuries have proved the value of prayerful meditation in helping them to draw near to God.

To take a particular theme or verse and meditate on it is hard to do when grief is tugging at our heart, but we will find great strength and comfort if we persevere.

Draw us deep into Your Word, Lord Jesus.

Let it fill our minds, and shape our thinking,
Until we instinctively choose the ways of Heaven.

Since Your Word tells us to guard our heart,
we resolve here and now
that we will allow no one and nothing
to take the place that is rightfully Yours.

In Your name
we rebuke the worries
that blur our thoughts
and consume our energies;
for You are the source of our life,
and we worship You.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.


5 C.S.Lewis. Screwtape Letters. Fount
6 Hodder & Stoughton Religious (2005) and Harper Collins (1997)