He gave me permission

valley of the shdow

I’ve walked through the Valley of the Shadow. Many times over.

So have you. This I know.

Your Valleys look different than mine. Or maybe it’s just the Shadows that are different. Either way, we all experience the same-yet-different sorrows, pains, and troubles that come in this life. We are all human. Our bones break. Our hearts hurt. Our loved ones die. We face illnesses, rejections, addictions, losses.

Yet the faith culture I was raised in didn’t leave room for acknowledgment of the Valleys. Emotions were indirectly declared evil—the kind of theology that emphasized that Jesus is all we need, so whatever we might be feeling is invalid.

Because to grieve a loved one’s death is to disbelieve that they’re in a better place.
To be disappointed in your now is to doubt that, in Romans 8:28 fashion, it really is for your good and His glory.
To express sadness means you distrust that He is in control.
To feel hurt by the doors slamming in your face is to disbelieve that He has something else better for you.
To be frustrated by your financial position is to forget Jehovah Jireh, God your provider.
To question, to doubt, to say “I don’t know” is equivalent to not believing at all.

The end result of this sort of theology wasn’t a faith community that didn’t feel negative emotions. The end result was a faith community that hid them. We wore masks that plastered artificial smiles on our faces. We spouted out platitudes and trite answers instead of being honest.

I finally realized, as I traversed the Valley of the Shadow yet again:

That’s not faith. That’s denial.

Faith is most genuine and true when it acknowledges the current reality and still says, “Lord, I believe. Help me overcome my unbelief.”

I’m struck by the story of Jesus when He visits the grave of His friend Lazarus, four days after he’d passed away. He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead, but right then, right in that moment, Jesus still felt, acknowledged, and expressed deep grief over His loss.

Grief doesn’t negate faith.

Even though He knew that in just a few minutes He would hug his friend again, Jesus wept.

Just as they did for those with Him that day, His tears give me permission to not only feel what I’m feeling, but also to express it. He validated my emotions. All of them.

He’s the One who gave me them to begin with—even the ones that are all mixed up and “negative” and un-faith-filled. He put inside me a heart that feels, and He handcrafted me eyes that cry…

So right here, right this moment, right in your Valley, He gives you permission to feel what you’re feeling.

It’s okay…

Face it. Feel it.

He’s right there, weeping with you.

(photo credit: jayRaz)


34 Responses to “He gave me permission”
  1. Kimberly Phillips says:

    Alece, agreed on all points. I still to this day have to shake myself from some of the guilt trips I got from the faith movement.

  2. Mark Allman

    I think that which we grieve we speak highly of. The grief that stays with us when a loved one dies speaks of how much they meant to us. The grief and torment we feel when love is lost or love betrays expresses what love means. I think it is ok to acknowledge and know that God is still in control but still speak up and say I don’t like this and this is hell. Life does not feel very abundant at times and I question why. I know some answers will not be coming this side of heaven. Often I do come to the point where all I can pray is the verse you quoted . I cringe at church sometimes when all we speak of is how great things are being a Christian when I wish we would acknowledge the truth of life week to week being hard and sometimes almost unbearable. I think people need to hear encouragement on getting through tough times not platitudes about how great everything is.
    While God does not protect us from life’s harsh realities we must cling to the knowledge that he is with us through them all.
    Well said Alece.

    • I agree, Mark. I grew up in churches that taught Christians could/would be spared from hardships and loss and pain, if only we had enough faith… Of course, totally disregarding Jesus’ own words when He told us that “in this life there would be trouble…” Turning a blind eye to reality is definitely not faith…

      • Mark Allman

        I think that teaching either breaks people or finally breaks down for them. For my father I think it broke him. When he was in the darkness we never pulled him from he lamented “why his life was not great after he accepted Christ” I never convinced him that was not promised.

  3. Deb says:

    Yes. Yes. And yes. Not to mention the shame borne of constantly being told that you should not feel what you feel; that one must hide who they are and what they’re going through. So much denial and keeping-up-appearances-of-faith is encouraged by well-meaning people. Thank you for this.

  4. JoyRenée


    Oh, how I have been there! I have built walls and guarded myself and hid and covered and denied, all in the name of being “joyful”. But today, 30-year old me is joyful still, but also vulnerable and honest and REAL. Finally. I may not always be so strong as to “laugh at the time to come”, but I can certainly face the valley with a newfound strength and hope, despite the fear and the doubt and the questioning. Or maybe, just a little bit, it’s because of it?

    Thanks for writing this, friend!

  5. Anna says:

    We are going through a hard time right now…. the air force moved us to California, and we are having a hard time finding suitable housing in our price range that can accommodate my family size and that is available right now. Everyone in my life is telling me to trust God when I say I am scared. I have good reason to be scared, I am homeless and can’t afford where I am staying right now… and it looks like there is no end in sight. We are trying to figure out the best solution that will help us right now and in the long run…. it’s hard. it’s scary. God knows how I feel… like you said, He gave me feelings. I am trying to trust… I have been praying a lot and doors keep slamming shut in my face… I agree with your post and I am thankful that I have a God who shares in my sorrows…. and allows me to feel my pain and loves me anyway and still takes care of me in spite of it all.

    • Oh Anna… I’m sorry to hear about your current housing situation in CA… And I’m sorry for the trite responses people are spouting at you. Your fear doesn’t negate your faith… Like you said, God meets you right there, shares with you in the sorrows, and is with you as you go through the Valley…

      Thinking of you today…

  6. I have been learning so much more about this as I have had lots of valleys in the last couple of years. I’m learning to be okay with my emotions, to feel deeply and be okay with it all. I think I even wrote something very similar last year in a post that God is the One who has given me the emotions I have and to feel deeply about the things I walk through. Thank you for sharing!

  7. Danielle says:


    Walking through the valley has led us to wrestle with some of these very same things and, thankfully, come out with more freedom and balance. The in between stunk. That’s the Romans 8:28 of it! Love you friend.

  8. suzanne says:

    Yes. Thank you! I love this.

  9. So true about masks. We’re supposed to be okay. Always. Even if it’s not true.

    I’ve taken mine off, put it back on, taken it off… it’s a daily ritual, but if I’m going to be “real” I have to leave it off and let people see the good, the bad and the ugly.

    I work with inmates in jail. They certainly don’t need to see a believer who is always okay. They need to learn how to deal with life that isn’t always okay, in better ways than the ones that have landed them in jail.

    That doesn’t mean I wallow in my issues, but it means I deal with them instead of tossing paint on them.

    Thank you, Alece. As ever, your heart is beautiful.

  10. Nancy says:

    I relate these struggles to how the Jews couldn’t/wouldn’t accept Jesus because they were expecting a totally different kind of Savior. Grace is messy. It gets down into the valleys of life WITH us. It doesn’t look down like royalty pointing the way for simpletons. It is REAL. just like we are. Grace brings hope, but it doesn’t always look like we wish it would.

  11. Nancy says:

    I remembered blogging about how Jesus wept over Lazarus encouraged me too. Had to find it: http://nancyrcarter.com/2006/05/disappointment-tears/

  12. Pierre says:

    My whole life revolves around quotes. Mostly because I cannot remember more than a sentence or two. Here are two that help me on my continuous journey through the valley.

    Like a muscle, faith grows as it is stretched and tested. It can only develop in circumstances when it meets with resistance – Anonymous

    God, who foresaw your tribulation, has specially armed you to go through it, not without pain but without stain – C.S. Lewis

    • Love that CS Lewis quote…

      • Pierre says:


        This might not tie up completely with your Valley theme, but another quote that I always carry with me is from the book “All About Bible Study” written by Herbert Lockyer:
        What one old writer said about The Revelation is true of the Bible as a whole: “Without tears it was not written and without tears if cannot be understood”


  13. Faith says:

    “He hand crafted me eyes that cry”.
    That speaks volumes to me who hates to cry.

  14. This is amazing. Thank you for writing it. So many need to read i. I needed it. Great perspective.

  15. Betty Draper says:

    Years ago I heard taught the valleys are where the riches grass is, water, trees and more living creatures. We strive for a mountain top but no striving for the valley. I am thankful as I reflect back to the many valley’s. I almost drown in one valley in the river of despair and bitterness. Yet that valley taught me more then any mountain top. Those who never struggle and lose are not the ones I would go to for counsel. Give that broken, scarred, frail person who lives in difficult situation, them I will ask, them I would ask to pray for me. Humility is never learned on the mountains, only in the valley’s or desert. Good post..

  16. long ago and far away i stumbled upon your story, and today i stumbled on you again on A Deeper Story” and I remember. so glad to catch up with you and I am subscribing this time.

    “Because to grieve a loved one’s death is to disbelieve that they’re in a better place…….” I resonate with these statements…..i never REALLY believed them, or i thought i didn’t, but i often lived as if i did. and then things came crashing down and my system that I thought worked didn’t quite work like i thought it did. I really like what you wrote here. In the process…….

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