The journey of grief is arduous. It is exhausting, seems never-ending, and is filled with anguish and suffering.
After trudging through the valley of the shadow of death with my beloved husband, I was left stranded at the bottom when death choked the final breath from his body.
At least I thought it was the bottom! But as grief consumed my entire existence, pouring into every nook and cranny, I found myself falling into deeper and deeper abysses.
There were rocks, maybe even boulders, that became momentary refuges. But as I tried to find my way through the deep valley, panic seized me. I was alone.
All alone! “Why, God? Why? I feel forsaken—so alone I cannot bear to think about it for fear of never finding a way out of this abyss. The anguish is too much to bear. Death would be welcome!”
Paralyzed by grief, I found no comfort in Scripture. Kind words from others could not penetrate the steel wall of pain.
Alone. So alone. Where do I go? How do I go? Or do I even go? I am still alive. I see, I hear, I taste, I smell, I breathe, I feel. But I am physically, emotionally, and spiritually broken.
“I need help, God! I’ve never been here before and I don’t know the way out. This valley is overwhelming, foreign, and frightening—so very, very dark.”
As months passed, a dialogue with God commenced.
“OK, God. I’m going to do the only thing I know how to do—take one step at a time.” (Oh, how I dislike that phrase! Spoken glibly, it has the power to inflict pain on the recipient of those “encouraging” words. Only when you have been forced to live by them can you have any understanding of their true meaning.)
As I took one small, hobbling step forward, the ground felt secure beneath me. But then my eyes glanced fleetingly around me. Terror overtook me as I saw not a smooth road ahead, but the gaping cavern and emptiness of a deeper abyss ready to receive me.
I looked up toward the heavens, screaming in anger and anguish, “Help me, God! Help!”
Because the heavens had seemed shut for so long, I expected no response.
Suddenly I felt someone holding me, anchoring me to a rock. I saw no one, heard nothing. But this touch was familiar. Could it be? Could this possibly be the hand of God? My spirit leaped with hope. “Yes, it IS him!”
For so long I had felt like I was spinning uncontrollably in outer space all alone. But now I knew that I was not alone. I had an anchor. “My soul’s been anchored in the Lord,” says the old spiritual.
The road ahead is long and arduous. One step forward, two steps back. But the secret I needed uncovered was revealed to me: “This is how you do your own journey of grief: Take one tiny step forward, remembering you are anchored. DO NOT look down or you will be overtaken by fear. Look up toward the light of heaven, remembering, ‘The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?’ (Psalm 27:1).
“‘[God] will not let your foot slip’ (Psalm 121:3). Take another faltering step, then another.
“This journey will take a long time, perhaps the rest of your life. The road is not smooth. Slips and falls will occur. Tears will continue to flow. Periods of anguish will overtake you. But as you take one step of faith at a time, you will receive courage to take the next one.
“You are on a journey of learning to live with sorrow. Always remember Deuteronomy 33:27: ‘The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.’”
Isn’t that how God works? Bringing redemption and restoration into the darkest places of our lives? Hold on to the anchor! Hold on for dear life. For he is your Shepherd, and he will lead you through the valley.