*I was given a Charles Spurgeon journal from BH Publishing Group to help facilitate my review. All thoughts and opinions are honest and my own.
I have been pondering Psalm 23:4. “Even though I walk through the valley of the Shadow of Death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they will comfort me.” I want to know what David meant when he referred to the Shadow of Death. Was it literal or figurative? Do I experience it every day?
The verse confused me because the only part of a valley that causes me to be afraid is the thought of the upward and toward climb to the next one. Valleys are usually a place to rest. Valleys are where lakes are formed, animals graze and find lush pastures. It did not seem like anyone would want to be in a “shadow of death,” let alone the valley of one. I certainly would not want to.
I began to picture a Shadow of Death Valley. It seemed a lot like walking through the earth. Especially when I am experiencing profound, soul-searing pain. The kind of pain that physical death is welcomed. The darkness of the depressed soul is agonizing. Then I pictured walking the dark valley with Jesus. It is like walking through an underground aquarium. I am walking through it, but the water, sharks, and stingrays cannot touch me. The darkness of the earth is around me, but it cannot affect me. Wherever I move Jesus’ light shines in the dark and exposes the lies, Satan tries to hurl into my brain.
I jump, get angry, freak out when Satan puts another bump on the road I wasn’t expecting. I jump and react sharply, but if I stopped, took a breath and allowed Jesus to turn his light on my path, I would not have responded so dramatically.
David, the author of many of the Psalms, understood mountains and valleys well. As a shepherd with his father’s flock, I can only imagine the places he had to lead his herd of sheep and the animals he warded off. Shepherding the sheep must have been much “easier” on full moon nights when it would illuminate his path. I imagine it was more comfortable than moonless nights when he could not even see his hand in front of his face. What was the valley he was referring to?
I believe a piece of the darkness was revealed to me when I read Steal Away Home. I have been inspired by Charles and Susannah Spurgeon. There is one particular line in the book that has stuck with me. Young Charles is talking to a visitor reverend after Sunday services at his Grandfather’s church. Sitting near a tree, he asks the minister why it was dark when he went to sleep and why it was dark when he woke up. The darkness he was referring to was a deep, dark depression that haunted him. It stole his ability to eat and his ability to sleep. It was a thief in his life. Perhaps a glimpse into the Shadow of Death.
I, too, along with many around me experience this same darkness of depression. A night that steals our peace and cripples our joy. I found it interesting when I looked up the Hebrew definition of Shadow of Death. Shadow and death had the same meaning. Shadow had a figurative definition of death, while death had the literal sense, but still, both refer to death. We can have a literal and figurative death here on earth. It is possible to walk around dead, while still physically alive.
Over the last year, I have thought more about the blessing of dying than any other time in my life. I have thought more about suicide than any other time in my life. The ironic thing is, I didn’t want to die. I wanted to live. There seemed no way out of the hell I was living in every day. I was lonely, striving and yet still not climbing or having forward motion in life. It seemed no one could rescue us, not even God. I had no energy to tie a knot at the end of my rope to hold on to. Also if I had the strength, what was the point of hanging on? It was a different take on suicide I didn’t know existed. Now that I do, it has made me even more aware. It’s a side of suicide that is peaceful because hell on earth will stop or so it seems at the moment. To go from this side of the planet to heaven seems like heavenly bliss. Death becomes a way out, it feels like the only way out.
In this moment of letting go and screaming out of panic, fear and a desire to be rescued. I yelled, “I can not do this on my own,” “where are you,” “hold me as I hold Timmy.” Pick me up and carry me, I cannot do this anymore. I then heard his whisper, “I was wondering when you would let go and let me carry you.” He looked at me as only a loving Abba can and put me on his lap of safety. He not only rescued my soul, but he also began rescuing us physically. One painful step at a time.
I have heard the saying, “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle” or “if you weren’t strong enough,” God wouldn’t give “this” to you. I disagree. He gives us things too heavy for us to carry to remind us we cannot handle anything on our own. To remind us our human strength will never be enough.
One of our too big for us to handle situations in our life is Mark’s Lyme disease. Our trips to Mark’s doctor gives us an hour drive there and an hour drive back. On the way to one of his appointments, I was silently crying out to the Lord. I had realized I had to let go of the rope and fall. Unsure of what I was going to fall into or how far we would have to drop before we stopped. I was talking with the Lord, pleading for him to catch me. Then the song by Psalty came to mind, Not by Might. The part in the Christmas album when they realize they will not be able to perform the Christmas program. God reminds Psalty of the story of Samson. Samson’s hair did not give him strength and it took having someone chop it off for him to realize it. God has chopped off areas in my life, to my devastation and to his glory. It has reminded me, “It’s not by might, nor by power, but by His spirit.”
I have started journaling about the Shadow of Death in my Charles Spurgeon journal. Which is ironic timing since Spurgeon himself journaled and preached on the power of the light Jesus brought into his life. The joy and peace of Christ that casts out the shadow of death. Charles and Susannah continue to inspire me to keep walking through the dark knowing Jesus will always brighten my path. There is no dark place that is not light to him, thus light to me.
I will continue to journal, thinking out loud through my hands and I am thankful I can bring you along. My prayer is that you too will be inspired to push through the dark to walk into the light with Jesus. The only peace, joy and constant love I have found.