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.
Face it. Feel it.
He's right there, weeping with you.
(photo credit: jayRaz)