Saturday, November 2, 2013

Through the Valley

.......Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death

How many times have we heard that?  We can almost quote it verse by verse.  

But when we are in the valley, do we fear?  Do we dread?

Once again I find myself in the valley as my heart is brought low.  Not another one dear Lord, not again.  Over and over again, one by one, they go.  Some knowing the Lord, some who may have not.  

Then what?  How do we walk through that?

Sometimes it comes after horrific suffering and death brings relief, other times it is sudden. 

The phone rings at work, I answer, "your father was found dead this morning."  I am in a dream, he is only 51 yrs. old, I wonder how...why...I am stunned.  I make my way to the bus from downtown, I live all alone.  And I have to walk through this alone, or so it feels.  I go to the store, still stunned, to buy funeral clothes. Funeral arrangements are made, the priest comes drunk, how appropriate.  The funeral home was dark and depressing, worn down, hope it was given at a discount.  Years later, one of my husband's closest friends gets a bad diagnosis.  He was the healthiest person we knew, very athletic, finally married and had a son....lives a little more than a year.  How do we make it through his funeral service?  The coffin leaves the church and I sob.  A good friend from high school gets diagnosed with cancer, we had our first two babies together.  How can this be?  She is still raising those boys.  In the midst of her battle my brother gets his terminal diagnosis, nine weeks later he dies of cancer at the age of 46.  It doesn't matter that he has three kids who need him, death comes when it comes.  Then my high school friend passes away eight months later, I have no tears left.  I go to the wake and feel numb.  I have no more grief in me.  A few years later the phone rings, one of those middle of the night calls. My father-in-law died, my husband gasps.  Oh, how I hate those calls.  A year and a few months later my mother-in-law dies, three months after her cancer diagnosis. Grief upon grief, when will it end?

Once again I am walking those halls, those corridors which I hate.  The same familiar smells, the same people in the retirement place, same doctors and nurses---I am all too familiar with.  I notice some of the same patients still there, same procedures, that awful carpeting and outdated walls.  They are all waiting for death...some don't have a clue where they are at, some do, but patiently wait.  Waste and wait,  three meals a day and sit. Sit for what?  Wait with hope that someone will come and visit, someone will talk to them.  I walk in with my young daughter, they light up like Christmas trees as life enters their faces once more.  Why do babies and small children make them smile so much?  They are hope, hope for a future, a hope they no longer have.  It is a reminder of what once was, long flowing blonde hair on a child, a smile, a bouncy walk full of energy and a bright future.  It was once like that for them.  Their world was good, no sickness or pain, they played and did not think of tomorrow, did not know lonely.  

.......I will fear no evil

Why will I fear no evil?  Why, and not only why, but HOW? 

.......because YOU are with me.  

Especially in this valley He brings comfort. As I walk through this dark valley again.....His spirit is with me.  His spirit even prays for me!  My mind cannot comprehend--He prays for ME!  Yes, and for you too.....if you have placed your trust in His sacrifice on the cross and not in your good works...HE PRAYS FOR YOU!  You are His when you enter into salvation.  He knows what you need and what to pray.  Do you think that God does not answer the prayers of His very own spirit?  

.......your rod and your staff, they comfort me

Even in the dark, even in the suffering, even when my heart is on the floor, they bring comfort.  It is hard enough going through this valley, but to go through it with enemies is pain upon pain. But there is still hope!  Because David concludes the 23rd Psalm with this:   

.......You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.  You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.  Surely, Your goodness and mecy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.  

When our enemies surround us we are to take our eyes off the enemy and onto the table He has prepared.  He prepares a table IN THE PRESENCE of my enemies.  So they are there, but they are not the focus, His anointing of our head and our cup overflowing should be our focus. Goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our lives!  His grace is the focus in the midst of our suffering.  The enemy may rage, but the table is there---focus on the table.  

And that is enough, He is enough.....despite the valley, despite the suffering, despite the enemies.  He is enough and we are His treasure, rejoice and give thanks!