And so, rather abruptly and without warning or consent, our journey took quite an unexpected turn - today, instead of walking a bright and cheery path laden with joy and excitement about a new addition to our family, we find ourselves taking an altogether different portion of this trail to glory - winding ever so ominously through a valley so deep and dark you begin to wonder when, if ever, you'll see the sun again and, at times, if you'll be able to muster up the strength to crawl out of this one. To be sure, life is a wonderful collection of great mountaintop experiences and joys, but every glorious, breathtaking, and cherished summit is acquired the hard way - with long, grueling, and taxing climbs to the top. There are no shortcuts here. The past 10 days, for our family, have not been the kinds of days you want to capture and frame and post for guests to see. No tired but happy faces on a mountaintop; no aura of fatigued satisfaction; no joy providing the backdrop for the discomfort and sweat. This is not that type of "overlook" in our story. However, by grace and in faith I believe that these past 10 days (and the subsequent times to follow) will be the ones that I look back on in my personal recollections as profoundly foundational for me and my walk with our Lord. As the darkness has felt overwhelming and the distress has been crippling, the Light of Christ has provided for me and our family a grounding and tethering and stabilizing force in all of this.
I heard a friend of mine tell me in a great moment of weakness something that I've found myself uttering these past days: "I really do believe my theology." Maybe the Apostle Paul said it a bit better: "I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I've committed unto Him against that day." What does that mean to the sufferer and downtrodden? Quite simply, my faith, far from the crutch that many critics would see, has been for me an anchor holding my soul fast through this present storm. My confidence in the finished work of Jesus on His Cross has been a buttress for me as I have needed it. I believe that our great God, who loves me with an everlasting love, would allow only what I can handle and what ultimately works together for good for those who love Him because He told me so. I believe that, far from punishment, this is to be seen as a gift of grace directly from His hand - however "ungracious" it appears to me in the present moment. I believe that, as Romans tells us, that the present sufferings of this broken world can't be compared with the glory that God will reveal in us and to us. I believe that grace and strength from Christ are found most in my moments of weakness. And I believe, from the Scriptures and from experience, that this walk through the shadows will soon lead me into a clearing - bright and beautiful, alongside a stream quiet and still, where times of restoration and refreshing will come. So, with expectant hearts, we press on in grief and sorrow and hope and faith, trusting that our Guide is an able one; that He too is acquainted with grief and tears; that He too has walked a road of great loss; and that, most importantly, He knows the way out of the shadows because He's been this way before.