“The marvelous richness of human experience would lose something of rewarding joy if there were no limitations to overcome. The hilltop hour would not be half so wonderful if there were no dark valleys to traverse.” - Helen Keller
This January I am celebrating (interesting choice of words, I know) my 28th year of living with lupus. As I percolate on those years, it becomes apparently clear that throughout my lupus journey, I have experienced a coalescence of metaphorical peaks and valleys that have included the following:
This leads me to say with certainty, that to anyone living with lupus, or a lupus overlap disease,
...there will be peaks, but there will also be valleys you will traverse.
They are going to happen. You can bet the cow, the farm, and your first born on that. As a matter of fact, you may be reading this thinking to yourself, “How did you know? I am currently in a valley!” or possibly, “I just came out of a valley!”
Whether you are currently in a valley, coming out of a valley, or a valley is just around the corner... difficult times or “valleys” happen all throughout our lives and, similar to death and taxes, are inevitable and often unavoidable.
Now, I don’t mean to insinuate that you must constantly guard your heart in anticipation of the trials and tribulations that are just around the river-bend; however, it’s important to acknowledge that everyone has troubles, and you are not alone in yours. It is estimated that over 5 million people have lupus worldwide so the odds of you being the only person going through difficult times are the same odds of me never eating chocolate again - slim to none.
Brothers and sisters, may I be frank? The rain falls on everyone. Everyone has sorrows, sickness, and sadness. Everyone has hurts, hang-ups, and horrible times, whether you have lupus or not. But it is in these times - these times when you feel like you are in the deepest, darkest valleys of your life- that you are tested and refined like a diamond under pressure. It is in these times that you are building “the marvelous richness of human experience.” It is in these times, that you have the opportunity to put your courage to the sticking place and learn, grow, and become who you are meant to be.
The Valley of the Shadow of Death
Psalm 23:4 is one of the most well-known verses in Scripture, and is regularly recited at funerals and various religious ceremonies. It says this, “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.”
Did you know that there is actually a real place in Israel called the “Valley of the Shadow of Death?” It is a canyon near Jericho that is very deep and confining. The deep pass is almost always covered in darkness, with the sun only shedding light on the valley at high noon. It is dark, scary, and treacherous, much like our lives with lupus can be. Therefor, “walking through the valley of the shadow of death” is not about death at all, but about LIFE and enduring trials, and seeing them come to pass.
Now, I may not be an expert on Biblical Theology, but I would venture to say that after living with lupus for 28 years, I am well-versed when it comes to fear. Fear throws us off course, derails our plans, and leaves us with thoughts that our valley is a dead-end, not a passageway. We miss the sun shining on us at high noon. In fact, we miss seeing any light at all. We feel all alone in the dark.
Just like the“Valley of the Shadow of Death” in Israel, these metaphorical “valleys” are not meant to be permanent places for us to dwell in fear, but rather places that are passed through during seasons of our lives. Similarly, like train tunnels (you can thank my son for all the train analogies), there is a beginning, a middle, and an end to every valley. Eventually, you will pass through it and (whatever it is that you are going through) will be behind you.
May I remind you, you are not alone. David, who penned the words in Psalm 23, was a shepherd first before he became King. He knew the great lengths shepherds would go to protect their sheep. They carried rods and staffs to ensure the safety of their flock. In the same way, David knew that he was safe because there was a power, a protector, a present help in time of trouble right there next to him, even in his darkest valleys. He trusted that God was by his side. Personally, I choose to make my faith in God bigger than my fears. Moreover, I trust in the fact that I know that God doesn’t bring valleys into my life (or yours) just to abandon me there. He brings me through. Each time making me stronger and more grounded in who I am.
What Do Our Lupus Valleys Teach Us?
Valleys are temporary, but that doesn’t mean they are not hard. It doesn’t mean they don’t shake us up and challenge us to our core. If we look back, after they have come to pass, I can guarantee we will see:
There is a purpose behind the painful valleys. The big valleys and the small valleys in our lives can teach us, mature us, and refine us. Max Lucado once said, “A season of suffering is a small assignment when compared to the reward. Rather than begrudge your problem, explore it. Ponder it. And most of all, use it…” Instead of fighting against your pain or season of suffering, take heed of this experience. Bloom where you are planted, even if you are planted right now in the valley of the shadow.
Character is built in the valleys of life. Let me ask you this: what is more important to you? Temporary comfort or lasting character? If we never experience pain, or seasons of suffering, or dark valleys, would we ever learn anything? Would we ever appreciate anything if life was easy? As Charles Spurgeon once stated, “Trials teach us what we are; they dig up the soil, and let us see what we are made of.” Character is built in the valleys of our life.
Valleys teach us how to help others through theirs. “Teach me to feel another’s woe, to hide the fault I see. That mercy I to others show, that mercy show to me.” - Alexander Pope. Your lupus can teach you how to love more deeply and validate other people's experiences. That is a powerful gift and an advantage you receive when you endure valleys. “You should never view your challenges as a disadvantage. Instead, it's important for you to understand that your experience facing and overcoming adversity is actually one of your biggest advantages.” -Michelle Obama
Wherever you are in your valley there is good news. Where there is a dark shadow, there has to be light somewhere. Because shadows do not exist by themselves. Look towards the light. Keep moving forward, know you are not alone. As long as you keep your focus on the light, the shadow cannot hold you back. And when you reach your peak, your radiance will be that much greater, and the hilltop hour will be that much more rich and beautiful.
**All resources provided by this blog are for informational purposes only, not to replace the advice of a medical professional. Kelli encourages you to always contact your medical provider with any specific questions or concerns regarding your illness. All intellectual property and content on this site and in this blog is owned by morethanlupus.com. This includes materials protected by copyright, trademark, or patent laws. Copyright, More Than Lupus 2018.