Through The Vale Of Tears

Text: John 16:16-22

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

We live our lives, as Christians, in the valley of tears.  Yes, we Christians live our lives in the valley of tears, or as they poetically say, in this vale of tears. 

The phrase, “vale of tears,” is a phrase that is often used to describe the tribulations of life that we Christians all experience in the here and now.  In other words, from the time of your conception until your death, you and I, travel and labor through this valley of life – a valley that is characterized by tears, trouble, and sorrow.  Indeed, we live, breathe, and have movement not on top of the mountains, but more often than not, within this valley of tears. 

Considering this valley of tears, it is a valley that is dark.  It contains hardships, suffering, loss, grief, persecution, and pain.  It is a valley that is clouded with gloom, where we experience the attacks of the devil, the struggles with the sinful nature, the persecution of the world, and the sting of death itself.

For us as North Americans though, we like to pretend that our lives are not in this valley of tears.  That’s right; we like to avoid the valley of tears at all costs.  It makes us uncomfortable and it goes against our ingrained view of entitlement.  So, we try to make peace with the darkness of the valley.  We try to turn the lemons of the valley into lemonade.  We convince ourselves that we are overcomers.  We say, “When we get knocked down, we get up again.”  And then when we stand as supposed overcomers, we look into the dark valley of tears and we roar as if we are invincible.        

We also buy every kind of gadget that promises to take us from the valley’s tears to happiness – every gadget that promises us an easier life.  We are suckers when it comes to those infomercials with their three easy payments.  Then with all of our gadgets we also run to positive messages that don’t remind us of the valley of darkness that we are in.  Oh, and don’t forget death!  We do everything possible to sanitize the effects of death.  Plastic surgery can fix dying skin that sags on our faces, makeup covers the wrinkles of age, Rogaine attempts to reverse hair lose, and medication can temporarily reverse the effects of disease.  We all dream that we can be like the Joneses down the street who have apparently overcome the valley of tears.

All this stated though, no matter how hard we try to climb out of the valley of tears or deny it, there is no escape – the valley’s walls are too steep and the valley is too dark.  No matter how hard we wipe away the tears, they keep flowing – they keep flowing until our last dying breath.  In this life, the devil continues to attack, our sinful flesh always longs to sin and wreak havoc in our lives, and the world continues to spew forth lies.  There is no bottom to this stuff.

Consider this example for a moment.  The very fact that we do so much to avoid the sorrow and darkness and tribulations of this life, is evidence that we actually are ‘in’ the valley of tears.  The very fact that we long for the peace, security, rest, and wholeness of the Garden of Eden is evidence that we are stuck in this valley of sadness, sorrow, and grief. 

Now, I do not share this to be a killjoy and I am not trying to place a raincloud over your heads; but rather, I am sharing this because this is the way that life is.  It is a reality.  Life in this world is tough.  In this earthly pilgrimage, the devil and the world will never stop assaulting you.  If you speak the truth the world rages in anger; it begins to curse, condemn, persecute, and you will endure its scorn and mockery – which leads to tears.[1]  “And if the world can whip out its sword against you, it will surely do that too, with master devil joining the fray, driving such poisonous, fiery darts into your heart that you will almost literally suffer a meltdown.”[2] 

Considering all of this, when you experience this kind of suffering in the valley of tears, what do you do and what will you do?  Keep in mind that you cannot escape the valley – the walls on each side are too high.  Also, you cannot turn around and get out of the valley – it is too dark.  Maybe you can give up – curse the valley, curse the world, and curse God!  But this still does not change the fact that you are in the valley.  So, what shall you do?

Dear friends, do not panic and do not fret.  Be still this hour and this moment; hear right now.  Did not Christ predict that there would be trials and suffering and pain in this life?  He certainly did.  However, our Lord Jesus Christ also said that this valley of tears will only be a ‘little while.’  Truly, this valley of tears is only ‘a little while.’  The comfort of the Christian is that this life on earth is only ‘a little while.’ 

It might seem strange to consider our lives in this valley of tears to be a little while; however, when we measure our short lives to God’s eternity, it really is a short time in comparison.  Our lives are infinitely small compared to the amount of time that awaits us in eternity. 

Dear Baptized Saints, do not lose heart and do not grow faint this day.  The valley of tears does not last forever; there is an end to the valley.  There is an end to the tears, an end to the suffering, an end to the persecution, an end to sin, an end to pain, and an end to the devil.  It is only a little while.  Be patient, wait it out, take courage! 

Consider a woman about to give birth.  Her agonies and contractions increase.  Her laughter is silenced.  She sees no end to her pain.  In the midst of labor the contractions seem like an eternity of hurt.  The pain blinds her from reality.  Fear can take hold of her as she may wonder if she and the baby will be preserved through the anguish and pain of birth.  However, objectively speaking the labor is only a little while – there is an end to it.  In a moment, all of her tears are turned to laughter, her fear is turned to victory, and her sadness is turned to joy.  At once the anguish and pain and fear and doubt are forgotten as she hears and sees the beloved newborn child in her arms.

This exchange will be the same for the church – for you and for me.  As the church, we too are in this labor with its contractions of pain.  Yes, the valley of tears is like the pains of labor.  As with labor though, our sorrows in this valley of tears will not last forever, but will be turned into eternal joy.  Indeed, the valley is dark, but soon there will be a glorious day.  We walk with the shadow of death in the valley, but soon there will be the light of life.  We walk with evil around us in the valley, but in a short while the devil, sin, and the world will have their end. 

Dear Baptized Saints, you mustn’t forget that the Lord Jesus Christ has all things in His hand.  The wind, the sea, sickness, disease, and death itself have submitted and will submit to Christ once again.  Therefore, dear Christians, let the devil, the world, and all the tyrants storm and rage.  Let them have their worst.  Let them growl, let them thrash, for they can only do so as God permits them and they can only do so for a little while.

As for the time being and as we continue to walk through the valley of tears, you Baptized Saints must cling to the promises of God’s Word – the promises that are for you.  Continually receive the Sacrament of the Altar – that is given and shed for you.  Remember your Baptisms – where God’s name was placed upon you.  Patiently endure any misfortune, comforting yourself with the truth that the Lord is with you in His Word and Sacraments.  Comfort yourself with Jesus’ Word that this life is only a ‘little while.’  Know that as tough as it gets in this life that the Lord holds not only the beginning but the end of this world. 

Do not grow weary and do not grow faint in this valley of tears, for the Lord grants power to the faint and increases the strength of those who have no strength. 

Wait for the Lord and rest dear Saints – the Lord holds you.  The day is coming that the valley of tears will end and all things will be made anew.  Lift up your chins, the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end.   Do not fear the drops of tears from your eyes, for the Lord will not cast you aside.  Sadness lasts only ‘a little while’ and then will change into gladness.  All grief will be swallowed up in the end and pain will be remembered no more. 

In the name of Jesus Christ: Amen.

[1] Martin Luther, Complete Sermon of Martin Luther: Volume 6 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Company, 2000), 90.

[2] Ibid.

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