Since July of last year, I’ve spent more time in a doctor’s office than I did during any of my pregnancies. I’ve had all kinds of tests done, been on antibiotics four times (or was it five?), and had all my teeth pulled. I’ve had prescriptions drugs shoved at me, as many as six at a time (down to three now). I’ve even had my eyes dilated twice, and my female organs poked and prodded. (I skipped the mammogram, though.) And every time I talked to a doctor, they found something else wrong with me.
Being told that what’s wrong with you could kill you is scary, no matter what the disease. During August, I wrote my will. And some time in those months, I gave up, though I didn’t realize it at the time.
Oh, sure, I did what the doctors said, took the meds, ate right, thought about exercise. But inside somewhere, I decided that all my dreams for the future were gone. I stopped dreaming, and I stopped writing. In fact, all my creativity dried up. How could I travel, hike, snorkel, get married, etc, with all this? So something – hope, dreams – quietly died.
Last night at 3 a.m., sitting at the computer playing solitaire, I suddenly walked out of what felt like a long, dark tunnel, into the light. This morning, I realized that I have been walking in the valley of the shadow of death for months now, and suddenly came out of it.
And that’s God! I wasn’t doing anything ‘spiritual’, wasn’t even thinking about God, wasn’t really thinking about anything. Yes, I was listening to a worship playlist. But I wasn’t worshipping. I was playing solitaire. He just brought me out! Thank You, Father!
So what is this ‘valley of the shadow of death’ anyway? When it was discussed at church during my childhood, it sounded pretty much like a place of desolation, where nothing lived, even plants. It sounded like a place where death stalked you. It sounded pretty scary, actually. Something like the picture I had of it is found in ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’. The valley where Eustace meets the dragon in Lewis’ book, ‘The Voyage of the Dawn Treader’, is about right.
But I haven’t been in a place like that physically or spiritually. In fact, I have seen more truth and gotten rid of quite a few lies during these months. Physically, I’ve improved, too.
Ah, but emotionally? Yes, emotionally I have been in that valley. I’ve labeled it depression and/or winter blahs; a friend said it was discouragement.
Ssometimes it felt like hopelessness.
Most times it felt like doubt.
All times it felt like the death of all my dreams.
‘The valley of the shadow of death’ – the shadow of it, not the actual presence of it. Sometimes the threat of a thing is more destructive than the thing itself. I’ve read many stories of disaster survivors, who, when something threatened, were terrified into immobility, but when faced with the actual event, got up and did what needed to be done. The shadow of something can’t be faced, can’t be wrestled to the ground and conquered. The real thing can be! How wise David (or Holy Spirit) was, as he wrote this psalm.
How many of us go through this valley, or live in it, without recognizing it? We don’t see that ‘the shadow of death’ can fall across any or all of our facets. It can affect our minds, our emotions, our health, our relationships, even our finances. This isn’t just a physical thing. Satan doesn’t want to destroy us just physically, he wants to destroy, or at least immobilize, us in every facet he can.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me.” Psalm 23:4. He was with me. Through all that discouragement, despair, hopelessness, death, He was there. With me. Right by my side, right inside me. Teaching me, helping me, loving me.
And He brought me through that valley! Out into His light, where I see that my hope and dreams didn’t really die, they were just overshadowed for that time. Which felt like death, but wasn’t, thank God!
If you are walking through your own version of ‘the valley of the shadow of death’, may you see clearly that He is with you.
May He comfort you, guide you, teach you to know Him and His Truth better in every facet of your being, and bring you out the other end into His glorious light!
And if you are not in ‘the valley’, may you be blessed with more of Him in every facet, so that if the valley comes, you get through it quickly.
“I have come that you might have life, and have it more abundantly.” Jesus (in John 10:10)