The Valley of the Shadow

 

 

The valley of the shadow…

What is it?

I used to believe it referred to fear of facing terminal illness, or fearing death itself. And it still might mean that to some. But I now realize it can also mean walking through the shadow of death as one left behind.

How to describe walking through this valley?

Feeling dazed and confused. Navigating a deep, dark, winding pathway with no guardrails in sight.

Fear!

Understandably, my husband’s unexpected death shook me to my core. In that moment nothing felt safe or secure. Our family as we knew it was gone forever, yet I was supposed to carry on as head of our home; to lead our children without him.

For the first time in life, I feared the future.

Initially, fear coursed through my veins. Listening to the frightened child within that wanted to curl up and shut out the world would have been easy. But faith in God and the example of other believers would not let me dwell in that world of fear.

My grandmother, twice widowed, gave me hope to find happiness after loss. And I remembered the faithful example of my great-aunt, widowed through tragedy; she was the one who helped me and countless others memorize Psalm 23 at her private kindergarten.

David gave us words to live by in that Psalm, where he reminded himself to rest in God no matter what his circumstance.

 

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4 (ESV)

 

David did not get a free pass to go around the valley. He had to walk through it. So did my grandmother and my great-aunt. Now it was my turn. Believers called to walk through the valley will have access to God’s rod and staff to receive comfort. Clinging to that allowed me to rise above the fear that threatened to overtake my mind.

Over five years have passed since I began my personal journey through the valley. Many life events have taken place.

I have successfully homeschooled and graduated four of our five children, bought and sold homes, and made financial decisions alone. I have married again to a wonderful man and blended our families.

God has helped me overcome fear of the unknown and of failure.

Yet fear still tries to raise its ugly head in unexpected ways sometimes.

I attribute that to the valley of the shadow of death, and as a result I am not sure it will ever go completely away. Mostly, it arises now when I hear of someone else facing trauma or loss. Because I know the pain and the fear they are facing, I feel panic begin. It is a sympathetic response on my part. I don’t want anyone to suffer that pain and fear.

Honestly, sometimes it also still shows up when I feel out of control in my own life. I quickly take myself back to Scripture that comforted me before, not just one verse, but the whole chapter of Psalm 23.

And as promised, He restores my soul.

 

Father, the valley of the shadow of death is not an easy place to be. Naturally, we want to remain on the mountaintop instead, although we know that is not possible. We know You are with us on our journey and Your rod and staff do comfort us. Please help us to cling to Your word for the restoration of our weary souls, and allow us to dwell in Your house forever. Amen.


Terri Oxner Sharp is a wife, mother, grandmother, homeschool teacher, and a writer for aNew Season/A Widow’s Might Ministries. Her first husband passed away suddenly in 2012. She gives God all the glory for how He has grown her spiritually on her widow journey, in preparation for her new journey into a blended family. Terri and her second husband live in Arkansas with the final child still living at home from their combined family of seven children, two son-in-loves, and two grandsons. She loves to be with people who love to laugh, enjoys spending time with their grandchildren, who know her as “GiGi”, and feels called to minister to other women who find themselves bewildered to be on a widow’s path as well.

 If you are interested in having Terri or any of our writing team speak, please contact us via email at: admin@anewseason.net.

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Who Could Imagine?

 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.

2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (ESV)

I was settled comfortably in a waiting room chair when I heard sniffling and looked up.

“Oh, this is embarrassing,” the receptionist said, dabbing her eyes. “I’ve been doing this for days, and I can’t stop.”

“I’m sorry,” I said, putting down the magazine.

“No, it’s okay. But it’s weird. I’m that woman that never cries. But I can’t shake the thoughts of what just happened to a friend.” She grabbed a tissue and blew her nose. “She was going along with her life, just like I do. Then, out of nowhere, her husband just died.”

I took it in. Just the mention of that scenario and a wave of bad memories flooded in as though they were yesterday. “Heart attack?”

She nodded. “He was fifty-one! I can’t imagine what she’s going through!”

I can, I thought and then took a deep breath. “Kids?”

“Three of the sweetest you can imagine. Her thirteen-year-old plays baseball with my thirteen-year-old.” She clenched her fists, fighting more tears, and shook her head. “Just like that—her life is changed forever.”

“Yes,” I said, my eyes meeting hers. “Completely changed forever.”

She thought for a moment. “I don’t know what to say to her. I’ve always been a tough woman. Stubborn. In my zone. I only focus on my world—my husband, my kids, my job. I’ve lost touch with so many people over the years as though no one really mattered.”

We both sat quietly for a moment while we thought about what she just said.

Then she added, “but she matters.”

And here is where I break from the story to speak to each of you sisters on this widow journey.  I’m amazed at God’s goodness to bring my meeting with the receptionist in the waiting room together.  It wasn’t an accident—her being struck with sadness about seeing the exact same tragedy I had once experienced and me hearing her gut-wrenching story that was exactly like my loss.

Isn’t God’s purpose so clear in these moments?  Paul talks about this when he writes to the Corinthians.  He tells them that when God comforts us in our struggles, we are then able to turn around and comfort others. My conversation with this receptionist happened almost ten years since losing Tom—long enough for me to have so much of God’s healing and joy restored in my life, and long enough for me to be prepared to send that healing and restoration through this woman to help the new widow in her life.

All these thoughts ran through my head as I listened to her describe the impact of her friend’s loss on her heart.

“I’m just a baseball mom acquaintance,” she said. “She never really mattered to me before, but now she matters, and I’m thinking about people I’ve neglected and ignored over the years. I’m not close to anyone but my family.”

I nodded. “People matter. The older we get, the more important it is to recognize it before it’s too late.”

“I don’t know what to do for her. I can’t imagine what she’s going through.”

Silence for a moment. Should I tell her I’m a widow? Yes, I should. God brought this moment for a reason.

“I can imagine what she’s going through,” I finally said. “I lived it. I was her.”

She looked puzzled.

“I was her age with four little boys when my husband died with no warning whatsoever. I was exactly where she is right now.”

She stared in my eyes, seeming to try to connect her friend’s situation to me. “I would have never guessed. You seem happy.”

“I am. It hasn’t been easy, but my life is good.”

“I can’t imagine what she’s going through.”

“Parts of being a widow stinks, but she will need a friend who can show her she’s more than a widow. She’s going to need a good friend.”

And as she began to ask how to be a good friend, I found myself making a new friend.

That was something I couldn’t imagine. Who could imagine His infinite wisdom and power—how the Almighty Counselor knew that only someone who had walked in my shoes could counsel this woman.

Lord thank you for bringing me comfort so that I can be used to comfort others.

 


Kit Hinkle is an author and speaker. She was an original writer of A Widow’s Might in 2008, and after four years with that ministry, expanded it and founded A New Season Ministries, Inc. Once the ministry became established, she turned the leadership over, yet continues to contribute articles while she focuses on her finest career as a mother to two high school boys, two boys in college, and a grown son and daughter whom she helped her husband raise before he passed away. She has lived through corporate careers as a chemical engineer and a management consultant, but now enjoys walks on the beach with her chocolate lab.  She loves to sit with another who is walking through her tough road and show that woman Christ. It’s an honor to participate in His kingdom.

If you are interested in having our team speak, please contact us via email at: admin@anewseason.net

Check out more posts by this author at- Kit Hinkle.

If you are looking for more to read about comforting others, consider these posts from our team:

Inviting Others into Your Healing Journey

When the Shoe is on the Other Foot

The Other Side of Sob

 

 

Secret to Joy

Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.

James 4:14 (ESV)

I stood gripping the edge of the counter, steadying myself, the memory of Tom washing through me like a flash flood of warm splashes, both refreshing and threatening at the same time.

Refreshing, because Tom exuded joy in his life—a twinkle in his eye and a keen sense of how to look at every moment and see the irony in it, the joy in it.

Threatening, because like Tom himself, I knew that immediacy of feeling the warmth of those moments would be lost when the cold hard reality would set in again—he’s gone.  He’s gone.

Life made a certain sense to Tom more so than it did to others, and anyone around him wanted that.

Even I.

It was his secret to joy. And most of us walking about on this earth don’t have it.

What was Tom’s secret?

Was it Christ? Yes, that was part of it—Tom sought after Christ like no one I had ever seen.

But it was more than that.  It was a wisdom—a sense that nothing on this planet is permanent, and that truth is okay. Because there is more. There is permanence in the next life.

When Tom finally chased after the Truth in the Gospels, he did so with this burning desire to understand, what’s next, God?  He had raised kids from his first marriage, and they were now grown.  He had started businesses, watched some grow, and watch some close down.  We had gone through ups and downs in our marriage.  And he would notice one thing…

It all eventually vanishes.

Children grow up and leave.  Businesses are never the same.  Friendships shift and people’s lives can change on a dime.  There’s got to be something more.

There is, and Tom found it.

When you know you are eternally safe with God, you can stop clutching on to this life, hoping the sands will stop shifting beneath your feet.  You will begin to just enjoy the ride of the shifting sands—enjoy that little toddler who is creating havoc in your home. Enjoy the brooding teen for who he is, a wonderful mixed up ball of hormonal creation whom God placed in your care because He entrusted you. Enjoy each of these dinner dates in that crazy process called dating. Laugh at the moments when you discover incompatibilities, trusting that God has a plan for the rest of your life.

Grab hold of every moment with laughter and purpose.

Because each of us as widows have learned something.  Our precious husbands left this world too soon, and since then, our lives were never the same.  We’ve learned that everything changes in the end.

But we also know that our husbands still exist somewhere.  We have a connectedness in our souls, a relational memory of someone we know is behind that curtain we might call the gates of Heaven.

Like a window into Heaven.

It makes a tragic view of this world, a view that says, it all goes away in the end, okay.

Not just okay, but encouraging.

Because we can rise above the pain and sorrow of events around us, knowing Heaven awaits.

Lord Jesus, help us find Your perspective through our window into Heaven. Help us enjoy the ride of life and see more humor in each moment.  Teach us to grasp each moment and decide to impact those around us so they see a window into Heaven like the rest of us.


Kit Hinkle is an author and speaker. She was an original writer of A Widow’s Might in 2008, and after four years with that ministry, expanded it and founded A New Season Ministries, Inc. Once the ministry became established, she turned the leadership over, yet continues to contribute articles while she focuses on her finest career as a mother to two high school boys, two boys in college, and a grown son and daughter whom she helped her husband raise before he passed away. She has lived through corporate careers as a chemical engineer and a management consultant, but now enjoys walks on the beach with her chocolate lab.  She loves to sit with another who is walking through her tough road and show that woman Christ. It’s an honor to participate in His kingdom.

If you are interested in having our team speak, please contact us via email at: admin@anewseason.net

Check out more posts by this author at- Kit Hinkle.

You might also like these posts by our team:

Fill My Days with the Living

Daddyisms

Contentment as a Single Mom

 

God Writes My Story

“So how did your husband die?”

This question can be a real conversation stopper for some widows.

I have been learning this lesson for the past five years. The final moments of one chapter of my story and the beginning of the next have changed my perspective dramatically. Only God really knows our whole story, and sometimes it is complicated.

“I am God and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.'” Isaiah 46:9b-10a (ESV)

My husband’s death certificate states cause of death as suicide, although the circumstances surrounding his death were so different than what people expected to hear. I answered honestly when people asked what happened, so it hurt when false assumptions were shared about how and why he died. It did not change the truth, but it hurt because some did not seek the truth before they spoke to others.

They did not know that:

  • due to insomnia he was on a prescription sleep medication that began to alter his personality for thirteen days before he died. Our family witnessed his strange behavior but we all, including him, linked it to his lack of sleep.
  • he called me for help that April morning, panicked and confused in his hotel room when he realized he had wounded himself in his drug-induced haze.
  • we had eleven precious minutes on the phone to say “I love you”: I promised to get help to him as quickly as I could and he, struggling to breathe,  whispered repeatedly how much he loved me
  • as I begged him to hold on, I could hear the paramedics yelling as they broke in the hotel room door. They closed his phone as he said the last “I love you” I would ever hear from him, then they worked unsuccessfully to save his life. At that moment, God wrote the final word in my husband’s story.

As I received the news of his death rather than expected news about his hospital transport, God began the new “Widow” chapter of my life by giving me “the peace that surpasses all understanding”. Although there were times when I had to push back against fear of the unknown, there was never a time when I doubted that God was still writing my own story. He taught me to rejoice in suffering, and He taught me to trust Him with the future.

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7 (ESV)

There are still things people do not know about my husband’s story. None of these things change who he was, the life he lived, or how he impacted my life for good. He was a sinner saved by grace just as I am, and I will see him again one day.

This experience changed me and showed me my own limited view of life –now I try not to assume anything about a person’s story; each one is unique. Only God knows how any life plays out from beginning to end. He always knows what is for our good and for His glory, even if we cannot see it at the time. In our family we have heard some of the good that has come from my husband’s death. Many people have said their faith was strengthened and at least one person chose not to end her own life because of our testimony; my husband’s death was not in vain. 

Hebrews 12:2 tells us to look to Jesus because He is the author and finisher of our faith. I know He can be trusted to write the end of my story as well.

Father, please help us to give grace to others who don’t seem to understand the daily struggles we experience, and help us not to make assumptions because we do not know what others are going through. Please give us daily peace and faith to trust that You alone are the Author and Finisher of our faith and to trust You to write our whole story. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.


Terri Oxner Sharp is a wife, mother, grandmother, homeschool teacher, and a writer for aNew Season/A Widow’s Might Ministries. Her first husband passed away suddenly in 2012. She gives God all the glory for how He has grown her spiritually on her widow journey, in preparation for her new journey into a blended family. Terri and her second husband live in Arkansas with the final child still living at home from their combined family of seven children, two son-in-loves, and two grandsons. She loves to be with people who love to laugh, enjoys spending time with their grandchildren, who know her as “GiGi”, and feels called to minister to other women who find themselves bewildered to be on a widow’s path as well.

 If you are interested in having Terri or any of our writing team speak, please contact us via email at: admin@anewseason.net.

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