Peace In the Valley
My family lived on the tiny Dutch Caribbean island of Bonaire where my parents worked with Trans World Radio.
When Dad accepted a senior pastorate position at a small Spanish-speaking church that had been without a pastor for some time, we moved to south Florida. Dad was determined to reach out to older members who hadn’t attended for some time, develop the church’s leadership, and make new contacts.
Within four months, the average Sunday attendance had nearly doubled. Everything seemed to be going well—until Dad stopped sleeping.
One day, mom was more than an hour late to pick us up from school; I was in eleventh grade and my sister in ninth. Eventually, one of our relatives picked us up and drove us to the hospital.
Dad’s lack of sleep had provoked a severe anxiety attack, causing his blood pressure to shoot through the roof, requiring immediate medical care. There we were in the hospital room of one of the strongest, most daring men I knew. Our sole family provider and the spiritual leader of our home lay trembling, panicked, tears in his eyes. He was being force-fed his medication like a child because he refused to take them.
I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, and I didn’t understand how deeply the situation was breaking my heart. It has been nearly 16 years since that day, and my father still struggles with depression and anxiety. We recently thought his condition was behind us, but dad was again hospitalized a few months ago, nearly 10 years since his last severe episode.
It has been a hard, long walk for my father, sometimes a crawl through the dark, life-sapping valley of anxiety and depression. It still is.
A couple of years into this season of my father’s health struggles, one of my college professors said, “When one member of the family is hurting, the whole family unit hurts.” It was then that I realized for the first time that my father was not the only one in the valley—we were (and are) all there with him, heartbroken and wrestling with our own fears and questions.
Yet, in this valley is where Christ has so tangibly manifested Himself as the faithful Shepherd who comforts and leads us beside restful waters. It is here that our family has come to know the good, good Father who fathers the orphan—who has been a loving Husband to the widow when dad has been unwell.
Here in this valley, the Lord has been teaching me how to pray—with thanksgiving rather than being swept up in my own anxieties. And I have experienced the transcending peace of God that “guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
Even in the most frightening and darkest moments of our lives, the Lord’s nearness is palpable (although at times it has taken me a while to realize it). I have no doubt that He is working all things together for our good and our sanctification. Here in this valley, He is with us, and He is our peace.