The Valley of the Shadow of Death
by Monica Obreja
After a month-long battle with covid on February 26th of last year, my husband Aurel went home to be with the Lord. When Aurel was in the hospital fighting for his life, I did the only thing I knew how: fight for him in prayer. I asked friends and family here in Israel and all over the world to pray. We had zoom prayer meetings at our congregation devoted to interceding for him. When the Lord finally took him home, surprisingly I did not feel angry at God or confused. Instead, God gave me a supernatural peace that we had done all we could to petition heaven for Aurel’s life and that, even though we may not understand it, this was God’s perfect will. Despite the shock and incredible loss, God gave me strength and grace to worship Him and even to encourage everyone there at my husband’s graveside after my sons and the men present had filled the grave. You see, in Israel it is the Jewish custom that the family and close friends lower the casket into the earth and then fill the grave with dirt. Burying your loved one yourself is an important Jewish tradition.
However, that was just the beginning. After we buried Aurel, I went home a widow with nine children. My youngest son was just four. While I was never so thankful I had so many children—we were an amazing support for each other in the first difficult months—I also felt the crushing weight of the grief of losing the love of my life and life-partner, the man who had led me to the Lord, and of the huge responsibility for my children’s physical and spiritual wellbeing now resting solely on me. Before Aurel passed away, I fought for his life in prayer. And now, I knew I had another battle on my hands: to overcome the all-consuming grief to be able to lead my family forward.
The Weapons of our Warfare
In the first months after Aurel died, I felt like I had to fight not to fall into a pit of grief that would consume me. Again, the only thing I knew how to do is pray—but I was so broken and disoriented by grief and the shock of losing Aurel that I did not know what to pray. So I prayed in the Spirit. Constantly! The Apostle Paul says, “I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you.” (I Cor. 14:18) During that time, I prayed in the Spirit, sometimes for hours, perhaps just as much as Paul did, if not more. The Word says that the Holy Spirit helps us in our weaknesses and expresses the inexpressible groanings of our spirits (Romans 8:26). The Holy Spirit was expressing my inexpressible grief and my deep cry for help to the Father.
As time passed, I felt like I had peace in the middle of a storm. God was strengthening me and His clarity guided me more and more. Prayer became the one thing I could “do” that consistently filled me and strengthened me – I was putting to the test all the spiritual truths I have learned from a life of walking with the Lord and reading His Word: He is a faithful rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. He comforts the brokenhearted. He gives us beauty for ashes, a garment of praise for a heavy spirit. He hears our prayers and answers. I know because I am the widow who came before her God and Judge again and again, and He has never once disappointed me. He gives me strength and wisdom to intercede for each of my children, to speak into their lives and to raise them in the knowledge and fear of the Lord. God is also speaking to me: He told me not to look back, not to cling to the past, like what He said to Lot’s wife: there was no longer a strong, supportive pillar for me in the past. Now it was just me and God in the present.
Another thing has happened in this process: my spiritual hunger for God keeps increasing. I sought Him constantly in the beginning to save me from falling into consuming grief. Now I am seeking not just because I cannot survive without Him but because I love His presence, I love His Word and I earnestly desire the spiritual gifts (I Corinthians 14). He is my exceedingly great reward!
A Revelation of Prayer
One day while washing dishes, I was pondering a passage I had been reading in 2 Kings that describes how Yoram King of Israel and Jehoshaphat King of Judah had gone out to fight the king of Moab: they got into trouble along the way when they could not find water for their troops and livestock. So, they sought out the prophet Elisha who told them:
…the LORD says, ‘Make this valley full of ditches. For the LORD says, ‘You will not see wind or rain, but the valley will be filled with water, and you will drink—you and your cattle and your animals. (2 Kings 3:16-17 Berean Study Bible)
I imagined those parched troops digging ditches in the hot Middle Eastern sun in a dry valley, how it must have seemed like pointless drudgery when they were already dying of thirst. But they still did their part. And then God did His miraculous part: He filled those ditches with water, providing for their immediate physical needs and then using those shimmering pools of water to throw the Moabites into confusion and give Israel the victory. God showed me that prayer is just like that: we are digging ditches in the dry ground when we pray. I see places of “dry ground” around me, but I do not let the dry ground determine the reality. I stand on God’s Word and promises in prayer, digging ditches in that dry ground, and then He will fill them with His miraculous water!
I AM THANKFUL
A year after losing my husband, I can say I am so thankful for God’s faithfulness and goodness to me and my family. I am also thankful for my brothers and sisters in faith: from the beginning of Aurel’s hospitalization and throughout this first year after his death, my home congregation, Tiferet Yeshua, believers from all over the body of Messiah in Israel, and even Christian friends in the nations, have surrounded me and my family with love and support in so many ways. My family and I could not stand without my brothers and sisters supporting me and my family.