I was recently at a memorial service. As happens at many such services, we recited the 23rd Psalm. Because this is something I memorized long ago, when I recite it, I often don’t really think about what I am saying. This particular service, I was drawn to a line in this great Psalm, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…” What does that phrase, the valley of the shadow of death mean?
One thing that is required for a shadow to be present is light. This is really a tremendous promise to us. The fact is, in this life we will have trouble (Jesus promises us this in John 16:33). Yet, He promises in that same verse that we are to “…take heart! I have overcome the world.” In other words, do not worry. Don’t be anxious. Don’t fret. I, Jesus, have it handled.
Here’s another great promise from Jesus that I chronicled in my latest book, Calming the Storm Within:
At the time of this writing, my friend, Thomas Ramundo, is Superintendent of the Southern Michigan Conference of the Free Methodist Church. While filling the pulpit at my home church, he shared this touching story:
“Of all the times I know God has not forsaken me, disregarded me, left me in a helpless state or relaxed his concern for me, the most vivid memory happened on December 19, 1975. I, being a young pastor, was in my office preparing a Christmas message. The church phone rang and when I answered, I heard my wife’s panicked voice screaming at me to hurry home. I sprinted FROM the office, THROUGH the church, OUT the door, and ACROSS the parking lot to our home next door. As I burst through the doorway I saw Noni holding our infant son, Samuel. Beside her our three year-old daughter, Theresa, stood confused and crying. ‘Samuel isn’t breathing,’ sobbed Noni. I scooped our son into my arms, ran to the car and headed for the hospital, crying and praying at the top of my lungs as I maneuvered my speeding automobile through the streets.
“‘Somebody please help me!’ I cried as I ran through the emergency room doors. A nurse stared at my blue, without-breath boy, then GLARED at me and asked, ‘What did you do to this baby?’ Ignoring her insensitive stupidity, I placed
Samuel in her arms, then waited while they went to work. They called a code and people in white coats came scampering from every direction; then two personal friends, the hospital chaplain and social worker appeared, a sight for my tear-filled eyes. Then Noni arrived, brought by a neighbor. But the defeated shrug of the doctor’s shoulders said it all. ‘I’m sorry,’ he said gently, ‘we just don’t know why this happens to infants. There wasn’t anything we could do.’
“That night, unable to sleep, I rose and reached for my Bible. All night long I read it and prayed. And all night long God was with me. I KNEW He was there. He had promised NEVER to forsake me. And He was there. Then, that gray December morning in the snow-covered cemetery a couple days before Christmas as we put the little white box in the frozen earth, our emotions were wintered-in and withered by a blizzard of grief. But we were not forsaken. Not for a second. For His promise is that He would NEVER, no not EVER, no NEVER, leave us, abandon us, turn away from us, disregard us in a helpless state, or relax his concern for us. After all, he’s not just a God you can have in your heart, he’s a God who has you in His heart.”
Just knowing that brings me peace. Does it for you? To close out his message, Thomas went on to tell us in his poetic and energetic style of preaching that we can’t rely on our feelings and emotions. The only thing we can rely on is our God and His word. “Our feelings fib and our emotions lie when they don’t comply with the word of God.”
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”