The Valley of the Shadow of Death

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life

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Even though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I will fear no evil for you are with me. (Ps.23:4)
If you are like me, you love the imagery of the Shepherd making us lie down in green pastures but not so much walking through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. I love to read promises of how God cares for me but I am so glad that His word also prepares me and arms me for the difficult days and seasons. Our lives are a mixture of different experiences; some photo-1423766111988-c47a5ff6ed06good, some mundane, some terribly difficult. Last year was one of the worst years of my life, I was treated for cancer and at the same time we had a period of terrible uncertainty about my husband Rob’s job. I felt so stretched – cancer and unemployment loomed over me for months like tall mountains leaving me to walk a narrow, shadowy path. The worst thing was the uncertainty. Others of you may literally be facing death or in the kind of despair where you feel you can’t go on. When we are in those seasons we can be gripped by fear.

I found that  Psalm 23 had something to say to us at every stage of that path:

when we are in need – I shall not want – God really does provide everything I need

when we are weary – He makes me lie down in green pasturesThere is a rest for my soul

when we are stressed – He leads me besides still waters – God gives me peace that rules my heart and mind

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when we are feeling dry – He restores my soulHe causes living water to bubble up within me

when we need wisdom for life – He leads me in paths of righteousness the Holy Spirit is our guide

when we are in danger, sick or dying – I will fear no evil for you are with me Jesus has conquered death, there is no greater enemy. This conqueror is with me always and fighting for me. We can take refuge in the shadow of His wings. (Ps. 36:7)

when we are under attack/opposed/oppressed – in the presence of my enemies you anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows. – If God is for us who can be against us?

More than that, this psalm gives us the context for the whole of our lives – surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. Whatever my circumstances are, this is always true for me that the goodness and mercy of God will follow me wherever I go, not just in the green pastures but in the valley as well.

We so often think that our happiest/easiest seasons are what life should be like all the time. This is not what the Bible teaches, the book of Ecclesiastes puts this so poetically, that there is

“a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (Eccl. 3:4)

There will be difficult times but the Bible  teaches us that we can rejoice in all circumstances. Our rejoicing is rooted in the fact that Jesus has died for us, our sins are forgiven and we are now living in the good of the grace of God on our lives. Rather than being overwhelmed by our circumstances we can be overwhelmed by the love of God every day. This is what sustains us – that we are known and loved by God. He is with us in the good days (when we often forget to acknowledge Him) and He is with us in the dark days, even the Valley of the Shadow of Death. He is always the same, never-changing, unfailing.

I am learning to dig deep into these truths. I don’t always get it right, sometimes I complain , sometimes I am miserable, lonely, frustrated, anxious or just plain cross! But my prayer for me and for you is

“that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have the strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Eph:17b-19)

Then we will all be able to journey through the Valley of the Shadow of Death rejoicing as we go.

 

 

Photos Credits:
still water – this photograph belongs to me and cannot be used without permission. Thank you!
others: Unsplash

 

 

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