Today's post is written by Jan Vickers; Jan and her husband Robin reside in the UK and are close friends of David and Elaine.
Psalm 23:4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me, your rod and staff they comfort me.
Dark valleys can be very different for each of us. They can come upon us very suddenly; a worrying diagnosis, a relationship crisis, a financial problem. Sometimes they can creep up on us slowly from within; anxiety, depression, addiction.
For my husband and myself we have walked the valley of the shadow of death over the past few years. Robin was an officer in the British army (now safely retired!) and he was posted to Iraq for a year working in a very dangerous area of Baghdad. He walked the valley of the shadow of death daily, but so did I waiting and hoping and praying at home. On his returning home, I was then diagnosed with breast cancer and went through the usual treatments of surgery and chemotherapy. This time Robin had to walk his own dark valley of supporting me. On my recovery he was then posted to Afghanistan for a year – we continued walking. Again on his return, not to be outdone, I was diagnosed with metastatic cancer which means the cancer is spreading and I am now under palliative care. We continue walking!
Coming from a theological background which believes in God’s supernatural ability and desire to heal, and faced with the medical prognosis and reality of my health, it would be understandable that that could cause problems for me! Yet I have found that I can walk with one foot on the path of expectation that today could be the day I am healed, and this is God’s desire for me, and the other on the path of my as yet unhealed life-shortening illness. OK, sometimes both feet leap onto one path but then soon I am back on both paths again.
The reason why I am walking in so much peace and faith I can only put down to the truth of the verse above. “I will fear no evil for you are with me.” The presence of God. Life has become very simple. Jesus is my Saviour. Jesus is my Healer and He is with me. So I hang out with Him! He knows how to lead me in paths of righteousness. He is not confused and bewildered by the valley I am in. He encourages me to keep walking through, not to settle and make my camp in the valley. He provides what I need for the journey as He is the God of all comfort, endurance and encouragement. He has the wisdom, the tools and strategies and is able to protect and comfort my heart within the valley.
Where God is there is goodness and as I look to Him I see it all around me. He has said “surely goodness and mercy shall follow me every day of my life.”(Ps 23:6) That means every day! It means the days when I feel the “same power that raised Christ from the dead is working in my mortal body” (Rom 8:11), as well as the days I feel pain. It means the days to come of joy and sadness, of enjoying and leaving my loved ones. It means the day when “I know in whom I have believed” (2 Tim 1:12) and will step into eternity with Him.
That is why we can say with the Psalmist “I will fear no evil.” I once heard said, there are no longer good days and bad days but days of grace. That grace may be expressed through supernatural intervention, of being sustained with favour and good things, or it comes in strength, endurance and courage. There will always be sufficient grace.
Hope is the confident expectation of goodness and sometimes we try to define what that looks like. “Goodness is that I get healed.” That would be good! But if we do not get healed does that mean our lives are without His goodness and therefore we lose hope? No! In everything the Good Shepherd is doing good and His goodness is so much more than our limited definition of good. Therefore we never have to be without hope.
When I imagine the days to come, good or bad, I think of the Lord’s presence in them and that settles my heart. He will be there, my source and my salvation. I need not fear.