“When I discovered your words, I devoured them. They are my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O LORD God of Heaven’s Armies.”
Jeremiah 15:16 NLT (emphasis mine)
In hours leading up to my son’s emergency brain surgery and the days preceding the biopsy results revealing cancer, my soul longed for the hope and comfort of the scriptures. “I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words. My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise.”* In the dimly lit hospital room, I would sit beside his bed with my Bible app open on my smart phone. Although I can’t remember the exact passages, still fresh in my mind is the memory of scrolling the pages of God’s Word, searching for answers and begging for His intervention.
“I open my mouth and pant, because I long for your commandments.” When the first of our friends began to offer to bring us needed items from home (we had only planned on being there a couple days initially), I asked for my favorite Bible. I longed to hold the cherished leather-bound Book in my hands and to see the highlighted passages that had brought me comfort in times past. “If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.”
This wasn’t the first time I had turned to truth of Scripture in desperate and trying times. Growing up in church, I have known them since I was young, but a few years ago, they came alive like never before. My finances were a wreck, my husband was withdrawing and my health (emotionally, physically and spiritually) was suffering. I felt alone, incomplete and hopelessly lost. God began a work in my heart that summer. Like Gomer in the book of Hosea, He “allured me and brought me into the wilderness. There he spoke tenderly to me and made the valley a door of hope” (see Hosea 2:14-15). With everything I depended upon stripped away, I turned to His Word for the first time with a ravenous hunger. “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” Though that time was incredibly painful, I would not go back and change one second of it. “I know, O LORD, that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.”
Here I was again, this time at death’s door. I have never walked through a valley so dark and deep that the hurt was almost palpable. It didn’t take me long to anxiously anticipate every doctor visit—hoping, praying for good news. “My soul clings to dust; give me life according to your word!” I would wake early and sit reading while waiting for the doctors to arrive on their morning rounds. “You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word.” There in the valley, in the dark hours before dawn, I have never experienced an intimacy so strong with the Lord. His word was truly my delight and my portion!
Many days and weeks have passed, and the valley has not yet reached its end. We have learned more than we ever wanted to know about the inner workings of a Children’s Hospital—many of them have been blessings to us in difficult circumstances. Take for instance, therapy sessions. I’m not talking about physical or occupational therapy, but rather visits from furry, four-legged friends, Fun Fridays and jam sessions with some talented and friendly musicians. But I think there may be something missing from the list . . . reading therapy. “This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promises gives me life.” Without His lamp to light the path before me (even if only one step at a time), I do not believe I could have made it this far.
Today, as you read this, I believe that you are in one of two places. Either, you are walking thorough the valley, or you know someone who is. First, let me speak to those in the valley. You may say to yourself, “Trouble and anguish have found me out,” but don’t let it stop there. Let His “commandments be your delight.” Cling to His word as a person tossed by the waves clings to a life preserver—because it is the only thing that will keep you afloat. Don’t let anything distract you from experiencing and savoring what the Bible offers—gifts of grace, strength, comfort and promises that are true. If your life is in turmoil, download the app** on your phone and steal moments while waiting in grocery lines, carpool lanes and doctors’ offices. If you are a new believer or have trouble knowing where to begin, visit your local Christian book store or ask a friend or pastor to help you find a good devotional. My favorite book in Bible, the one that has helped me most during time spent in the valleys, is Psalm. This is also a perfect book for those who are not lovers of books and struggle to find the motivation to read just about anything. Psalm consists of many powerful chapters that only contain a few verses (the entire chapter can be read in one sitting). Whatever you do, just read it! “All Scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable . . .” (2 Timothy 3:16, emphasis mine). It will be your portion (your dose of strength, life and grace needed to sustain you) . . . if only for the very next step.
You might not be in the valley; right now, you might be sitting on the mountain top. And let us praise God for the victory that got you there! But don’t stop there. Someone you know is down below, walking through one of life’s trials right now. Many times, when our loved ones experience deep pain and anguish, we find ourselves at a loss for words. If we have not personally experienced the same trial, we cannot understand their hurt or how to help, and sometimes, they can’t express it (they may not even know themselves what they need). It is ok (and encouraged) to let them know you love them and are thinking of and praying for them. Meals, cards, visits and thoughtful gifts are all appreciated, but there is something you can give them that has a value far exceeding anything found in a gift shop. “The unfolding of your word gives light.”
During my six-week stay in Pittsburgh for my son’s treatment, I asked that people share scripture with me. I needed to hear it. I longed to be immersed in it. One of my sweet friends posted a new scripture to my social media page each day for at least a week. Oh, I cannot tell you what a blessing this was!!! Often times, it was words of truth that God had already been speaking to me, and her post brought welcomed confirmation and renewed hope! If you worry about sharing the wrong scripture, try talking with a teacher or pastor. Do scripture searches with the key words “hope,” “strength,” “grace,” “comfort,” etc. Another thing that I thoroughly cherished was when someone shared a scripture with me that had helped them in their time of crisis. Pray about it. Share from your heart, and leave the rest up to God.
For me, although the journey has an unknowable end, I have seen God move the mountain before us one rock at a time. I have seen His glory shine like stars in the cold valley nights. And my heart proclaims, “Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart” (emphasis mine)!
*Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture text came from excerpts of Psalm 119 in the English Standard Version. I encourage you to take a day or a week, to read the chapter in its entirety!
**For Bible applications that are easy to use and include multiple translations, I use both The Holy Bible – King James Version by Tecarta, Inc and the You Version Bible by LifeChurch.tv (this one even includes a broad range of daily reading programs).