We find ourselves now in the season of Advent. It’s fitting, really, that we end our Through the Valley series during this season, for I believe it’s in the promise of Advent that we find hope as we walk through whatever valleys life may bring our way.
Some, I suppose, may deem the topics we’ve covered over the last several weeks to be “depressing” or too heavy to dwell on for too long. We’ve waded into some deep waters: racism and the effects of racial trauma, grief and loneliness, chronic illness and depression. The list goes on. But in a year like this one, it seems honest to sit with the hard parts of life. It seems necessary to ask, “What does it look like to follow Jesus here,” when we face ongoing uncertainty or when we feel weary. In this season, I know I’m feeling the weight of such things even more keenly than normal.
If all we had were the questions, weariness, or pain, we would be worthy of pity indeed and dwelling on such things would truly be depressing. But here in the valley, here in the dark of winter, we are met with a spark of hope. We sing of it: “A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.” Why? Because the valley—and all it brings—is not the end of the story for disciples of Jesus.
In this Advent season we are reminded of the hope that offers to sustain us no matter what valleys we may be asked to walk—or how long they may endure. We are reminded of a God who stooped low to enter our world for our redemption. Of a Savior who took on flesh and all its pain and became one of us. We are reminded that Christ joined humanity in the mundane of every day life, of work and play, of dirty diapers and sawdust, of celebrations and funerals. He stepped into it all and in everything invited His disciples then, and us today, to follow Him.
But in the season of Advent we also remember Christ’s second coming, the one His people wait for today, when He will restore all things. We find hope as we long for this yet-to-come advent, when all of creation will be remade and there will be no more tears or sorrow or pain.
This promise of the Kingdom fully come offers us hope as we walk through the valley today. And even more—it offers us a pathway to find joy in the midst of suffering, to stare into the darkness yet not be overcome. We can walk through the valley—and speak honestly of it—and yet not fear. We can walk with another through the valley and not be dismayed. For even the deepest of valleys can become a sacred place when we are joined by Immanuel—God with us.
Diana Gruver (MA, Gordon-Conwell) writes about discipleship and spiritual formation in the every day. She is the author of Companions in the Darkness: Seven Saints who Struggled with Depression and Doubt. You can find her online at www.dianagruver.com or on Facebook or Twitter. Diana originally published this work with the Vere Institute (Oct 2014 – May 2021), which was founded to empower Christians to integrate their faith into everyday life. The Vere Institute’s legacy lives on through our Vere Library.