Vale of Tears

Embarking on the Journey



Embarking on the Journey

O Lord, I come to You for protection;
Don’t let me be put to shame.
Rescue me, for You always do what is right.
Bend down and listen to me;
Rescue me quickly.
Be for me a great rock of safety,
A fortress where my enemies cannot reach me . . .
For the honour of Your name, lead me out of this peril.
I entrust my spirit into Your hand.
Psalm 31:1-5

While we were still engaged, Rosalind and I visited a man of God called Alex Buchanan. Over the years, we have been given many wonderful words of prophecy, but on this occasion we received something altogether more sobering: “When I think of the trials you two are going to go through,” Alex declared, “I shudder!”

This was not quite the encouragement we had been hoping for(!) but at least God was telling us straight how things would be. The Scriptures tell us that we are destined to enter the kingdom through many hardships and tribulations,2 but it is important not to underestimate the psychological effects such trials can have on us.

As surely as some would regard moving house or changing church as an adventure rather than a trauma, others need to allow themselves more space and grace in which to adjust and mourn when friends move away, children leave home, and other shocks come their way.

It is by no means a sign of unbelief or immaturity to mourn when precious seasons coming to an end, and to recognise that certain things may never be the same again. Bland reassurances that “time heals everything” often prove misleading.3

When extreme grief comes our way, time often seems to all but stand still. Perhaps the African concept of “Time coming” provides a more helpful perspective than our agonising western preoccupation with time passing so quickly. As Rosemary Green reminds us, Time only really brings healing when the resentment at the source of the infection has been cleaned. A wound may heal on the surface but it will go septic if the dirt remains inside.4

The one thing time does serve to do is to put distance between us as we are today and grief events that have happened in the past. By definition, even the most acute memories fade with the passing of time, albeit it with occasional sharp reprises. The more willing we are to work our grief through, the less likely we are to end up harbouring emotional time-bombs.

It is comforting to reflect that the Lord has all eternity to make up for our troubles in this life. An elderly missionary couple entering New York harbour on board a liner were rather ruefully watching the great crowds that had assembled to welcome the celebrities as they disembarked from the ship. “Nobody’s putting on a party to welcome me,” lamented the husband, sad and somewhat afraid lest his decades of faithful service had passed unnoticed. Seeing how upset he was, his wife encouraged him to pray about the matter. He did so, and the Lord spoke clearly to him: “But this isn’t your homecoming yet!”5

Reflect and Pray

When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown . . .
I am the Lord your God.
Isaiah 43:1-3

Lord, give us the grace to ride
grief’s white-knuckle rapids.
and to find You on the journey.
Land us at last on safer kinder shores,
Enriched and not diminished.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.

2 Acts 14:22
3 In the wider community, people feel grieved when “houses with memories” are sold or knocked down, and churches, businesses and enterprises that have meant a lot to them are closed. Neither does it help when green areas are paved over to provide new housing to point out that nobody has been hurt in the process. It can still feel as though something of a person’s own identity has been affected – and it is quite alright to grieve.
4 Rosemary Green. God’s Catalyst. Christina Press (1997)
5 An elderly couple returning home from the mission field, seemingly un-welcomed and unappreciated. But God reassures them that their work is significant in His eyes, telling them that the best is yet to come.