The maple tree outside my office window is just starting to show a hint of red. Beyond that, the marigolds that rimmed the beans in the garden are tall and brilliant yellow and orange (though the beans are long gone!). The coneflowers have all gone to seed, and the burning bushes are blazing red. The grass is green and the sky is blue and the breeze coming through the window has just enough coolness to remind me that fall is here!
What a beautiful world God created for us to enjoy!
However, I am reminded yet again that this world, as beautiful as it is, is not as it should be, or will be. This evening, I will be attending the funeral of my dear friend, Susan Foley. We live in the Valley of the Shadow of Death.
We think of ‘the valley’ as that place where we must walk just before dying; or that place where those left behind walk as they mourn the passing of a loved one.
The reality is, from the moment we’re born, we are living and walking in the Valley of the Shadow of Death. The shadow of death is ever present, lurking over our shoulders, and reminding us of our mortality. Everything dies. Trees, flowers, pets, people. Death is here.
When God created the earth, it was perfect. But after Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden tree, death was ushered into creation, and we live in its shadow every day of our lives.
But, we need not fear death. Christ overcame death. When we come to the end of our days in the valley, Jesus welcomes us into his heaven. He has gone ahead of us to prepare a place for us and we know we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Believers don’t die. Our bodies die, and when they do, we close our eyes in this life and open them in eternity.
The last time I visited Susan we mostly talked about Jesus. Susan knew she was going to see him face to face soon, and while her heart broke for those who would mourn her passing, she was excited for herself. She was going to see Jesus!
Susan walked into the arms of her Savior on Sunday morning. She is healthy and well. She isn’t in any more pain. She is free. Free to worship. Free to love completely and purely. Free to sing praises without end. Free to bow low in adoration at Jesus’ feet. Free to smile at Jesus’ face for all eternity.
The party is not here! This is the Valley of the Shadow of Death. This is where fear reigns. This is a fallen world filled with fallen people who endure suffering, pain and tears. The party is in the presence of Jesus!
Until Jesus returns and restores the earth to its former glory, or calls us home, we are just walking through the valley. Home is in heaven.