Barbara Johnson was so proud of her Marine son. He was killed in Vietnam. Five years later, her oldest son died when a drunk driver struck her son’s car. Two years after that, another son turned his back on his family and his faith when he announced that he had adopted a lifestyle completely contrary to the way Barbara raised him.

She was traumatized. Barbara experienced grief upon grief upon grief. She felt like a knife had literally been run through her heart. She thought she would die. She wrote, “I think I’m having a heart attack. I don’t know what you call it, but I think I’m dying. I can’t breathe, and I’m choking. It feels as if I’ve got a rug in my throat and my teeth itch.”

Barbara was a deeply committed Christian. She later wrote about her trauma in her book, Stick a Geranium in Your Hat and Be Happy. When she described her reactions to life’s curveballs, she said, “All the promises of God are there, and they’re real, and they’re true, but right now you’re bleeding, you’re raw and hurting, and you have to hang on to those promises even if they don’t seem to work for you at the moment.”

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4).

I have experienced difficult days. I’ve buried both parents. I’ve lost close relatives and friends. But I have not experienced the difficulties of a Barbara Johnson. My own life lessons from my experiences concur with hers. All of the promises of God are there. They are real and they are true. But it is sometimes difficult to hang on to his promises. God is faithful, however, to see us through the tough times. It seems that it is in the valleys when God shows up the most.

When we are going through difficult days, God’s unlimited grace and peace can carry us through times of trial. He is with us in the valleys.