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Christian Living

Spiritual Life

Peace in the Valley of the Shadow

“Why has God done this to me?”

That question was posed to me by this angry woman lying in a hospital bed. As one of the chaplains, I was called on to meet with this lady, though I was given no information concerning what she wanted to talk about.

“I’m only in my late 50s,” she continued, “but I’m stuck in a body that’s getting weaker and weaker. While my friends are out having fun and enjoying their lives, I’m trapped in this body and in this bed.”

There are many ways I could have responded. I could have told her to “buck up” and stop complaining. I could have told her that “God works in mysterious ways.” I could have told her that she could get better if she only had enough faith. Or I could have told her that everything was going to be OK.

None of those are good responses. The best response was to listen and allow her to pour out her heart of pain. 

After she was done, I simply acknowledged her pain and said I was sorry that she had such a difficult burden to bear. I assured her of God’s love for her, despite the health challenges she was facing.

As we continued to talk, I reminded her that there were many people in the Bible who experienced different kinds of pain – some physical, some emotional – and they also brought their sorrow, grief, and questions to God. I shared how David often cried out to God in the Psalms. I assured her that God didn’t mind her sharing truthfully from her heart.

After nearly an hour of sharing, she ended our conversation with, “Thank you, I needed to share that. Despite my pain, I still believe.” We prayed together and I said goodbye.

Two days later, I received an emergency page to come back to this woman’s room. She was actively dying and she had no family or friends with her. 

When I arrived in her room, she had already fallen into a coma and the death struggle had begun. The nurse was getting ready to give her some morphine to ease her pain.

I took hold of the woman’s hand and spoke to her, “It’s Chaplain Craig. I was here a couple days ago. I want you to know you’re not alone. I’m here, the nurse is here, and God is here with us.”

I started to sing some hymns that were stirring in my heart. When I got to “Amazing Grace” the nurse said, “Oh, that is my favorite. Can I sing along?”

“Of course,” I responded and the two of us sang the beloved hymn together. Then I started quoting what is probably the best known of David’s writings – the 23rd Psalm.

When I spoke the comforting words, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me…” this dear woman – who had not moved at all up until that point – suddenly squeezed my hand. I experienced then what I had had been told in my chaplain training, that those in a coma can usually hear and understand what is happening around them. 

Though she had questioned God in the midst of her difficult trial, she had held on to her faith. In the end, it was God’s Word and His presence that brought her comfort as she said goodbye to this world.

The Bible gives us this comforting glimpse at God’s perspective of earthly death: 

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his godly ones.” Psalm 116:15 (NASB)

I was honored to be there for this precious moment in the life of this godly one. And I was blessed to witness the power of God’s Word to bring peace in the valley of the shadow of death.

Copyright © Craig von Buseck. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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