I was lying on the back seat of the Plymouth Valiant and the pain in my neck from a recent biopsy was rather acute. My mother and older brother were driving me from Pennsylvania to California where at Stanford they had the most experience and best success at treating Hodgkin’s Disease which had been diagnosed from that biopsy. It was dark and conversation had lagged. A song by Dottie Rambo began going through my mind.
This is my valley, I will not complain.
I know it’s good for me to suffer tears and pain
This is my valley, I will do my best
To face each trial and test,
For this is my valley.
I considered the situation. This was out of my hands. I had done nothing to bring on the disease and I was following doctor’s recommendation for treatment. So I turned the song into a prayer. If the Lord allowed it, He could take me through it.
And He did. After weeks of radiation and then months of chemotherapy and multiplied prayers of the saints, the doctors felt I was cured of the disease. Forty- four years ago I learned a lesson on trusting God in the valley.
There are all sorts of valleys we go through that require us to trust God. Abraham was one hundred years old and still did not have the child of promise that he longed for. Yet he had the promise and he exemplified faith operating in unusual circumstances. “He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God” (Rom. 4:20).
We face many valleys of difficulty in life. Family hurts, church divisions, personal weaknesses, strong temptations, money problems, job challenges, health concerns, and a host of other things can be sore trials of our faith.
Jesus had strong trials to overcome. Temptation in the wilderness, a desire to turn from the bitter cup He was facing as He prayed in the garden, the possibility of calling 10,000 angels to His rescue, loving His tormenters as they mocked and spit on Him, and other great pressures for Him to bail out of the whole salvation scene. But He was strong in His desire to please the Father. He endured the shame. He endured the pain. He yielded Himself to death on the cross. He loved us and gave Himself for us. And He overcame death itself, for after He was buried, He rose again on the third day.
It is because Jesus died and rose again that we have hope when we go through our valleys. He has prayed for us. The Holy Spirit makes intercession for us. The Father loves us. And Jesus said He will not forsake us. What a comfort to know that He will keep us even in the deepest valley. Like the apostle Paul, we can be “persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day” (2 Tim. 1:12). We commit the saving of our souls to Him. We commit the cleansing of our hearts to Him. We commit our whole lives to Him. He is able to keep all that we have committed. And we can commit ourselves to Him when we face the deepest valley.
I am now facing “the valley of the shadow of death.” The doctors on my case suspect that the rare cancer that took my voice and my ability to eat or drink without a feeding tube was caused by all the radiation I had over four decades ago.
After surgeries and many months of chemotherapy the medical field has exhausted their options for treatment. Hence, hospice.
Facing the experience of death has often been likened to crossing the Jordan River into the Promised Land. That metaphor has been used often in gospel songs. Songs like “I won’t have to cross Jordan alone,” “I Am Bound for the Promised Land” which begins with the phrase “On Jordan’s stormy banks I stand…”, “Roll Jordan Roll,” “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” which contains the verse, “I looked over Jordan and what did I see…A band of angels comin’ after me.”
None of us has ever experienced death, so we don’t know what it will be like. Perhaps that is why it is referred to as the chilly Jordan. It is the darkness of the unknown. It is the last enemy that Jesus will defeat. But that is not the end. The apostle affirmed “there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust” (Acts 24:15b). For the believer that is wonderful news. With the chilly Jordan behind, there is the Promised Land. Jordan’s stormy banks give way to heaven’s fair and happy land.
It is because of this great hope that Jesus said to His disciples, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:1-3). Jesus has been preparing us a place and He wants to receive us so that we can be with Him.
Naturally we want to hold on to life. I do. My father-in-law used to say, “Everybody wants to go to heaven but not today.” So we hold our lives dearly. We want to live. But inevitably, death will come. “It is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27). That is a sobering thought. Everyone will one day stand before God. Death is not the end for anyone. There will be a judgment of the just and the unjust. What hope is there?
“My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness,” wrote the songwriter. “I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.” At the judgment we will find Jesus a strong foundation, a solid rock, a precious hiding place.
Life is uncertain, at best. But the promise of eternal life to all who believe is as certain as the word of God. It is in the promises of God’s word that I rest my hope.
Jesus is my Lord and Savior. What a place to hide when on Jordan’s stormy banks!
“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Rom. 10:9-13)