BOOK REVIEW: Though I Walk Through the Valley (Vance Havner)
by Michael J. Penfold
There are numerous insightful and comforting books out there by Christian authors on the topic of grief, among them James White’s Grieving: Your Path Back to Peace and Tim Challies’s Seasons of Sorrow.
A lesser well known offering is Though I Walk Through the Valley by Vance Havner (ISBN 9781937428730, Kingsley Press).
On Sept 2nd 1973, 72 year old preacher and author Vance Havner (1901-1986) lost his wife of 33 years, Sara, after she was struck down by a fatal and dreaded disease which distorted her lovely features and rendered her a helpless invalid.
Mr Havner had been praying some time before the tragedy struck that the Lord would draw him nearer to Himself. Little did he know how that prayer would be answered. Mr Havner soon entered a valley of grief in which he proved the Lord’s goodness and mercy as never before. As a result he decided to take up his pen and chronicle his experiences, struggles and reflections both before and after Sara’s homecall. The fruit fruit of that exercise is this touching and comforting 112 page book Though I Walk through the Valley.
Mr Havner prayed for Sara’s healing, but when Lord didn’t answer that prayer he was led to a place of acceptance and peace through the comfort of the Scriptures. His battle with loneliness and the memories of the past are all recorded, along with a record of how he eventually moved forward in service for the Lord once again. We recommend this book and feel sure that its 51 brief chapters will help anyone passing through the valley of loss and grief.
Here are a few paragraphs from Chapter 24:
“I sit once more in a hospital beside my dear one while, for her, ‘Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day’. The monitor on the wall registers a feeble heartbeat, next to none. All our hopes and prayers for her recovery have not been answered. We had hoped to see a miracle of healing and to say to a doubting world, ‘I told you so! God still breaks through!’ But I have another message now that may be better: ‘God makes no mistakes, and all He does is right. He has no stereotyped way of doing what He does. He delivered Peter from prison but left John the Baptist in a dungeon to die. I accept whatever He does, however He does it’.
“One could give way now to a flood of memories, a heart bursting with love while I clasp the hand I have held so often. With the other I would take hold of a sure, unfailing hand, no less real because to sight unseen.
“Whoever thinks he has the ways of God conveniently tabulated, analysed and correlated with convenient, glib answers to ease every question from aching hearts has not been far in this maze of mystery that we call life and death. At this writing I never knew less how to explain the ways of Providence, but I never had more confidence in God.
“During the London blitz of World War II, many children were evacuated to the countryside by order of the government. As one load pulled out [on a train], someone asked a youngster, ‘Where are you going?’ He replied, ‘I don’t know; but the King knows!’ I don’t know where I’m headed or what lies out there. But my King knows, and I have one ambition left – to be His faithful subject.”