Walking in the Valley of the Shadow, Part 1


How long, LORD, must I call for help,
but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
but you do not save?
Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds.
Therefore the law is paralyzed,
and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
so that justice is perverted (Habakkuk 1:2-4, NIV).

Passages like this one in Habakkuk remind us of the sobering truth that God does not intervene and stop every bad thing that happens. As Christians, we need to own this fact.

Now, it is true that in many of life’s hurts, disappointments, and heartaches, we can look back and understand why God allowed those bad things to happen to us:

  • Some are the result of choices we have made (and we grow in wisdom).
  • Some are consequences of our actions (and we learn responsibility).
  • Some surprise us by leading us to better places (and we grow in trust and faith).
  • Some times after something horrific happens to us, in hind sight we come to see how God took something bad and brought even greater good out of it (our appreciation and apprehension of God’s redeeming grace and love deepens).

But there are some things that just make us join with Habakkuk and ask God, “Where are you?” There are some events that no matter how far away we get from them, seem pointless, unredeemable, irrevocable, unescapable.

A for instance? For the last month or so I have been walking with a young woman who was brutally gang raped when she was 14. Those “men” beat her almost to death, and left her as such in a pit. A decade and a half later, she is still struggling with what happened and is daily struggling with the devastation that was done to her body and soul. Why would a sovereign good God not intervene and stop that? She has no answer for that…and frankly, neither do I.

Some honest confessions on my part. I am a Christian fully planted in the Reformed tradition. RC Sproul babysat me as a kid (I mean that literally). I am a Jonathan Edwards nut, and am doing a PhD on him. I am currently reading the great Puritan William Ames’ Marrow of Theology and loving it. I am a graduate of Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando. All that is so say I believe that God is sovereign—absolutely sovereign. I believe that God is good—absolutely good, unable to have anything to do with committing evil on any level, no matter how small. I believe that all news is good news in Christ!

But I also know that as sure as Romans 8:28 is divinely inspired Scripture, so is Habakkuk. What I have been learning is that it is really, really important to be wise in how we respond to people who are struggling with the questions that the pain of great natural evil (i.e. cancer, earthquakes, tsunamis, etc.) and moral evil (rape, murder, etc.) bring with them.

What I want to do in my next few posts is share some of what I have been learning about coming alongside and walking with people who are in these dark valleys. Below are the topics in bullet form that I plan to flesh out in future posts.

  • It is more helpful to be a gracious presence than an encyclopedia of biblical knowledge.
  • Struggle with “why” is normal, don’t discourage it.
  • Sometimes listening is more important than speaking.
  • There are some things you should just not say, no matter how true they may be.

I have a feeling these will take longer to write as usual so they may not come on a daily basis, but they will share the title of this post.

10 Comments

  1. There are so many devastating situations around us. And there are no easy answers. Like you, many times in our counselling we cannot find words to say (which is probably better). But the one thing we have learned is that we don’t have the answers. All we can do is lead people to the One who does. Really looking forward to hearing your insight on this!

    Like

    1. Thanks for your comment. I do not think it is a bad thing to know that there is no easy answer. I think the honesty of that admission goes a long way and lets them know they are not just missing the obvious.

      Like

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