The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
– Psalm 23
The KJV says “Shadow of Death” in Psalm 23:4 while the NIV says “Darkest Valley”. But I was faced with the shadow of darkness a few days ago.
I drove to the rehab center to sit with my wife.
For you who want an update, she is getting stronger every day. The heart monitor has been hung up in insurance arguments, so she thinks and hopes that her A-Fib is less than before. She is getting stronger and all indications and schedules have her coming home on Wednesday of this week.
Now, back to the drive to the rehab center. I have been taking the shortest route, mostly back roads. The final short cut involves a road called ‘Alpine’. The hills on Alpine are not as tall as the Alps, but possibly rival those storied European mountains in their steepness. At one point, you go down hill slowly. At the bottom of the hill, the road goes over a little creek or run, turns sharply to the left and then goes up the hill rather quickly with several tight turns. Yes, I was entering a valley. Was it the valley of death?
As I drove down the hill, I started braking to go slow enough to make the left-hand turn. I was driving nearly due East. As the little bridge over the run approached, the sun came out from behind a cloud. The road ahead was suddenly thrown into the shadows of the hill ahead of me. My transition lenses on my glasses quickly darkened as the sun was right in front of my eyes. Of course, there was glare on top of everything else.
What I saw before me was a bit of road just short of the bridge and then black. I saw no variations of color, light or texture beyond ten feet in front of the car – only black.
I remembered a story that I once heard about an island covered in fog. Just because the fog made it impossible to see the island, there was no fear that the island was not there. The point of the foggy island story was to show that God is invisible, but we experience Him in many ways. We know that God is there.
I had that story and Psalm 23 to protect me – so many of God’s promises. There was probably nothing on my side of the road, and I knew the road was there. I could keep going. I could drive forward in faith. There were only two problems. People in SW Pennsylvania make a habit out of driving on the wrong side of the road, especially when driving around curves too fast, and this was a nasty curve ahead. And if my eyes did not adjust rapidly, a limestone wall loomed directly in front of me.
But, I knew I was in the hands of the Good Shepherd. I would fear no evil. I slowed enough to safely make the turn. As soon as I entered the shade of the hill, I no longer had the glare from the sun. The transitions lenses do not get light quickly, but even with shaded lenses, I had enough light to make the turn.
When this happened, I was reminded of the countless times in my life that I spiritually faced darkness in front of me and trusted God. This time it was more literal, yet God has always been there.
Are you faced with a trip into a dark valley? God is there for you if you trust Him.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.