Living through Psalm 23
“Even when the way goes through Death Valley, I’m not afraid when you walk at my side.”
It smothers. It’s a darkness and heaviness and dread like no other. It’s real. It’s so real that the word “terrified” only seems to brush the surface of its depths. Your throat fills, your eyes widen, you gasp for breath that will not come. The ground gives way; you’re swallowed whole. When evil is allowed to touch you, when it brushes your children with its horror and wickedness, your soul shifts—freefalls, in its search for hope.
The awareness of loss caused by another’s evil is concentrated. Immediate. Powerful. Deafening. The grief only amplifies the thunderous darkness. Blinded by the depths of the sunless valley, you grasp its pain far too easily. An intense suffocation lays heavily on you, one that only comes from the force of evil’s malicious manipulation. Fear becomes the immediate sensation. Your body tenses. Your mind races. Your heart beats. Will you flee? Will you fight? Will you bury yourself in the ground? Fear is seeking to point you somewhere safe.
“Whom shall I fear?”
A stilling Presence emanates amid the thundering, as if it has always been there. You can’t quite grasp it. This Presence seems impossible to believe in, let alone hope in. But you’ve been in the abundant pasture, and you’ve been fed by the quiet pools. This faint memory stirs a thought… a promise, there’s a promise to remember!
You look up and try to call the promise to mind. “It’s too hard to believe,” you tell Him. “This is too hard. It’s too dark.”
His whispers begin …
“Come to Me.
Draw near to Me.
I am by your side.”
His voice grows louder. You can hear Him more clearly…
“I will guide you.
I will lead you.
This is not a surprise to Me.”
His truth begins to thunder in your heart. Courage is awakened. You sit up and begin to look around. As your eyes search your surroundings you realize you are not alone; others are here in the valley with you. Comfort and sorrow flood through you, “I am neither the first, nor the only one to be led here.” Your heart pounds harder as you strive to listen closely…
“I am your security.
I will redeem this.
I will deliver justice.”
His Light begins to produce sight within you. Your courage grows. Though you can’t physically see your way, you push up from the hard ground, brushing away the dust. He hasn’t removed you from this valley but you remember the promise: Darkness is not dark to God. Darkness cannot overtake Him. Death, the worst darkness, has been conquered. Jesus has already won! Jesus can redeem anything. He speaks right beside you…
“I will revive you.
I will satisfy you.
Your cup will overflow with Me.”
You lift up your hands in the lament of worship, your head bowed. Evil is still there, but its power over you has weakened. You have recalled Jesus. With His remembrance, you put on your armor. You see those still in chains, still abused, still held captive in the valley with you and you ready yourself for the fight of freedom. Empowered by His promise, you walk toward the captives. Your sword of the Spirit is drawn. Your shield of faith is held firm.
“Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life. I’m back home in the house of God for the rest of my life.”
*P.S… Just a clarification. I want you to know the point of this is not that you must be the one arising and putting on the armor. Sometimes, we are the ones on the ground still in captivity, needing to be rescued by Jesus and by Jesus’ plan for our rescue. The point is to hold high the glory and power of God that He can enable us to fight, even when we are the ones being attacked by evil. It is possible to fight through Him. It’s just not how He always writes the story…but sometimes He does. I have been the one buried in the ground and the one called to fight. Both are true. Both are possible. Both are because of the goodness and mercy of God alone.