In the Valley

I took this picture of a Grand Canyon valley because it gives me hope. It is a steep and far descent to the lowest place. But there, at the very bottom, is a bit of green. Looking from the top, you can’t see the stream that runs there, but it does. When you feel like you can’t get any lower, you find the water. The bottom of the valley is where the life giving water collects. It is where the largest rivers rush or even the tiniest streams roll gently.

No, this picture is not of the big river part of the canyon. But in this valley, there is enough water to give life to the plants there in the lowest crevices of the great divide.

Whatever pit we may find ourselves in—whether a parenting, family, friendship, work, or spiritual valley—there is God, waiting to refresh and comfort, to heal and give hope. At no point on our journey, whether on the peaks or in the valleys, can God’s children escape the presence of the Lord. In the center of no circumstance can we break the tether of His love for us. Simply, nothing can ever separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus. Nothing. Not even death. Not even the bottom-most, shadowed, lonely valley. God is there.

It is Holy Week and Easter is around the corner. I’ve been trying not to rush past the Good Friday part, the part where Jesus dies. I’ve been imagining the disciples, all excited after the crowd had proclaimed Christ the King. And then came Passover. And Jesus started telling them about going away and the sending them the Helper, the Holy Spirit, who would lead them into truth. And before His last prayer, He told His disciples this: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Then Jesus was arrested, judged, crucified, and buried.

He was gone.

The King lay lifeless in a guarded tomb.

Their King.

I can’t imagine their heartbreak, their desperation to recall every word He’d ever said to them, the way they remembered the night He washed their feet and told them He would send them a helper.

Not much is written about how they felt, how they mourned, how they tried to understand.

I’m sitting in this space this week. What in my life seems hopeless, empty, sorrowful, desperate? Where am I weary or heartbroken or confused or in need? What makes me anxious or afraid? In all of these things, collected in a jumble at the bottom of the valley, is the Lord Jesus Christ, who tells me, “Monica, you can have peace in me. In the world, you will have tribulation, but take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Jesus gave us Himself. His very self.

He wants all of us to know that.

I live on the other side of the resurrection. I know the end of the story that the disciples had not yet lived when they sat in a darkened room the day after their Lord’s crucifixion. They were wrestling with the idea that their rock, their purpose for living, had left them. And I can’t even imagine how that felt.

Loss, even when anticipated, can overwhelm us.

But I can relate, in some way, to their joy in finding Jesus alive again. Really, truly alive. Able to eat fish by the river alive. Able to show Thomas His hands. Able to ascend into heaven, resurrected, alive. Able to save us.

So, if you are walking in the bottom of a valley, or you feel like you are descending into one, take heart. The river of life flows even in the lowest, darkest, most desolate places. There is nowhere that the Spirit of the Lord cannot reach. There is nowhere that you can go to separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus. We know He is alive. We know He saves. We know He is preparing a place for us, a good place, a holy place. We know He said He would deposit His very own comfort into our hearts. And we get to live in eager anticipation for what is to come, with hope for today because God is even now, in this moment, offering us all we need.

He is with us, His living water is there to sustain us, even in the deepest valley.

His living water rushes there.

Oh, how He loves.

May the peace of God be with you on Good Friday, and may it be the joy of the Lord that overwhelms you as you celebrate His loving sacrifice for us, as we celebrate the resurrection of the living Christ.

So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him. John 19:16b-18a

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Matthew 28:6a

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