The phone call.

Bad news.

Hours of questions.

No understanding.

Why did this happen?

Overtaken, I find myself face-down, the dust of the valley of defeat in my mouth. My bones ache. My soul is parched. Where are you? Why didn’t you come? Where is the triumphal entry we thought we would get? Where was the miracle we hoped for?

The miracle was not ours this time. No, this time we have been given another valley to tread, more treacherous than I thought it could be. Surrounded by black barren trees whose roots lie beside a stream of gray water there seems no hope to continue.

But I get up, something tells me to. The rocks give way to sharp, piercing pain for my bare feet. My exposed soul wastes away amid the elements of a dusty land. The blood-stained trail behind me marks the path I’ve trod, beaten and bruised, pressed…

but not yet crushed.

My entire being is bared. The fragrance of brimstone fills the air, divulging the presence of he who walks near, waiting to devour. He circles ‘round like a vulture, waiting for my next move. He lurks in the shadow, contemplating his strategy.

The dim yellow light from a faint and distant sun illuminates a swelling storm in the distance.  Upon the realization of the storm, I encounter two roads, converged in the place I stand, but sharply departing thereafter, one narrow one broad.   The brimstone fragranced man entices me to the well-traveled, broad path, casting convincing arguments to succumb to the despair that lay in wait there. The other path, still dimly lit, gives no promise of escape from the brewing tumult in the distance.

My choice? I follow the Wind on the narrow way:

Are You still good, even in the valley? Yes, undoubtedly, unequivocally, yes. One thousand times over, yes.

Your stillness surrounds me. My eyes close. Your cool and gentle breeze consumes me, down to the bone. It stings, as it normally does when you break me. But, ah, you are so gentle. I feel my will break. Not mine, but Thine. Have Your way. This valley is Yours, I’ve given it to you. You remind me that You created me, You created the valley, You created the rocks that penetrate the skin on my swollen and weary feet, and all things will be used to glorify Your great Name, for that is the reason it all was created.

Among the lifeless and dark thorns I see in the valley one Rose, the Rose of Sharon, a most beautiful rose, red-stained. He makes himself known to me and His smile brings comfort. I fall, broken, empty, lifeless, and hopeless into the arms of the One who brings hope, abundant life, fullness, and the balm and cloth that bind up the wounds of the broken hearted. The man fragranced with brimstone flees, a scowl replacing his once haughty smile.

Hand in hand the Rose and I walk toward the storm. The valley grows strangely dim. Nothing matters except He who guides me. My focus remains on the One who presses me firmly into his side where, even amid the turmoil, I find rest. The winds bluster. The rain pelts. The lightning births brilliant scenes across the darkening sky. The thunder rings majestic across the valley. It’s beautiful, but dangerous, just like You. This walk, it is why I was made…for such a time as this.

As my focus remains on the Rose my feet never falter. My vision is clear, but I can only see the next step in front of me, waiting for direction from the One who holds me. He covers me with his feathers and under his wings I find my refuge.

The storm subsides, a storm, which before I gazed on the Rose, seemed a place for certain death. But no, the valley was no match for Him.

trust You in the valley. I trust You with the valley. I trust the help You have sent. You are ever-faithful and always prove Yourself true. You send rescue just in time.

What am I to do with the freshly trod valley behind me? I choose to give you glory and praise because of it and the good things you have done to help me navigate it. Great is Thy faithfulness. In my lament You are my song of praise. Because of You I was not consumed in the vicious storm, in the depths of the valley. Your compassions fail not. Never. With the sun rise You bring forth new mercies. You are my portion. I will wait on You, my deliverer, my rock in whom I take refuge.

And so I stand, thankful for the valley, for it is by the valley You reveal Your true beauty to me, and I know that Your victory waits for me at the top of the mountain that now lies before me, just past the valley.

For from Him, and to Him, and through Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen.