Nov 6, 2011
The other day I saw a reference to the “veil of tears,” a phrase Christians use when speaking of our trials here on earth. There are challenges that confront us, that we must see past, and try to get through. Most Christians, indeed all the saints, have at time longed for release, to be freed by God’s mercy; and, sometime, to join Him. To be embraced by Jesus’ outstretched arms.
I think we can understand this term better – this concept of enduring life’s difficulties – if we realize that the word “veil” is misspelled. It is actually “vale of tears” – from the Latin valle lacrimarum; literally, “valley of tears.”
Slowly a clearer meaning, and a better understanding of a biblical principle, is before us. A “valley of tears” can remind us of the Psalm’s “Yea, though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death.” And then, a step further, we should let that verse speak to us clearly. Note how the Psalmist rejoices that God is with him in the dark valley.
Surely he might have resented that God did not walk him to the mountaintop, far from shadows of death, never having to even go near the valley of tears. No, he rejoiced that God was with him in that place.
We need to remind ourselves that God usually works that way. When He intervened in the life-threatening situation of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, surely the Lord could have destroyed the furnace, or struck King Nebuchadnezzar dead, or caused the many jailers and guards to flee. By His miraculous hand, God did save the three faithful servants… but in their trial, not from their trial.
The Bible is replete with such workings of God. We might as well get used to it! It’s not “second-best” – except by our own selfish points of view – but is in fact perfect, it is from God: His ways are wonderful. It doesn’t mean we should cease praying for deliverance; but it does mean we should praise Him in the midst of trials. Deliverance comes, and God deserves praise, even the sacrifice of praise.
When we come to see our occasional tears as a trial, we see the place as a vale, a valley; but even more as a path… a trail. And when those tears wash our eyes, we will clearly see the form of Jesus at the end of the trail. More often than not, if we have accepted the rod and the staff wherewith God has comforted us, we will see the Savior running towards us, His arms outstretched.
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The gospel songwriter Dottie Rambo wrote a powerful illustration of these principles:
When I’m low in spirit, I cry Lord, lift me up!
I want to go higher with Thee.
But nothing grows high on a mountain,
So He picked out a valley for me.
Here is a version by Connie Smith, whom I believe was the first to sing it, from a tribute to Dottie a few years ago: