Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Valley of the Shadow of Death

Abraham was told he would have children. He waited a decade and managed to make a mess of things. David was told he would be king, he waited decades while running for his life. Joseph was told he would rule over his family. His wait seemed like forever, and he lost it all in the process. Moses poured himself out to get Israel to the Promised Land. Yet, in the end, he died just outside its borders.

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

What is this valley of the shadow of death? Often, we see the 23rd Psalm as a passage of comfort during some tragic time, and rightfully so.

But as I was meditating on the passage, it began to take an additional meaning for me. To me, the valley represents the time between the promise and fulfillment. This is where faith is tested, and where it sometimes dies. This is where our walk with God grows stronger, or is snuffed out entirely.

When we pray for healing, but she dies anyway. When we believe for a breakthrough, but still lose the house to foreclosure. When we are faithful in what we do, yet still get laid off. When we get passed over for a promotion, the car breaks down, our children act up, or the bank account goes in the negative.

That, to me, represents the valley of the shadow of death. This is when our faith in the divine faces the blur of the mundane. When our expectations of easy, swift deliverance fall to the request that we bear our cross. We fast, pray, tithe, do whatever we need, begging to be delivered. Instead, we hear God say:

My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.
2 Corinthians 12:9

That is the valley of the shadow of death.

Hanging over our heads is the nagging doubt that maybe, just maybe, this is the end. Maybe God does not intend to come through. Maybe I'm destined to remain broke, sad, disillusioned, or whatever else we feel.

So, we read Psalm 23:4 again. We read it for what it is. A promise that we will never be alone. When we see life at its darkest (which will mean different things to different people), God is there. He will comfort us and His hand will reach out to guide us. No matter what it may look like in our eyes or our minds, God is promising not to leave us. Rather than falter during the journey, we can draw on His strength for the trip.

And ultimately, it's the destination that counts. It's the hope that we will spend enternity with Him in heaven. Our issues here are momentary Our future with Him is eternal.

So, let's hold His hand as we walk through this valley together.

Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
Psalm 23:6

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