Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Valley of Deep Darkness

Why Lord?

Have you felt darkness closing in?  Maybe it crept in slowly, pulling the oxygen slowly out of the room.  Or maybe it came on so suddenly, it quickly took all of your breath away in an instant.

Either way, we find it hard to breathe through the pain and we ask God, why?

I could give several answers, all biblical, why this is allowed. But would that help?  Maybe. However, while we are walking through the "valley of the shadow of death", mini sermons or debates about God's Sovereignty may not offer the comfort we so desperately need.

For generations God's people have turned to Psalm 23 for relief from heartache.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
                               He makes me lie down in green pastures.
                                                                  He leads me besides still waters.

There is tenderness in this Psalm of David. He knew the importance of a shepherd's care over his sheep.  This is very personal for David.  I imagine he is writing this at a very dark time in his life, verse 4 says:

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 Your staff, they comfort me.

The phrase "valley of the shadow of death" is also translated, "valley of deep darkness". Oh our wounded hearts, how so many of us have experienced deep darkness.  But wait, there is a treasure here in this verse that we just cannot miss.

Did you notice in verse 1 (also in 2 and 3), David is talking about the Lord. It's like he is reminding himself of the truth of who God is.  The LORD is  my shepherd.  He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul.  And then we come to verse 4, David shares his burden with the Lord.  I am walking through deep darkness.  Please God, help me breathe again.

And then it happens.

David says, I will fear no evil, for You are with me.  He has gone from talking about the Lord to talking to the Lord.  It is ever so slight, but ever so powerful.  I feel like the movie score has transitioned from a sad melody into a song of triumph.  Like the first ray of the rising sun breaking the darkness of night.  Hope has come. The Lord's presence is so palpable, he talks to Him instead of about Him.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; 
                                          You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

I believe with all of who I am, that God is good.  And here is one more proof of His goodness.  In the original language, part of the translation for anoint, is "take away ashes from sacrifice".

The Lord takes the ashes of our sacrifice of brokenness and creates beauty.  Then He reaches back down and anoints us with the very same sacrifice. Our experience becomes our anointing. This burden will have purpose, it will not be wasted.

We may not be able to see the beauty right away, and walking through the valley of deep darkness may take longer than we desire. You may feel hopeless. Our feelings aren't always reliable though. God's Word is and so is verse 6:

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, 
                                           and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

The truth is that goodness and mercy are near and will be your companions all the days of your life.  And as a child of God our future is secure.

I imagine David being so distraught in his pain, his face in his hands, the tears streaming. Hopeless. He recounts what he knows is true of the Lord.  He pours out his heart, sharing his burden. Then slowly he lifts his face. Truth floods in and he sees that the Lord is near.

Turning darkness to light, hurt to hope, death to life.

Whatever your burden today, may you pour it out to the Lord. Recount what you know is true of Him. Then, like David, may you lift your face and see that the Shepherd is near. Your sorrow will not be wasted, He has purpose for you, an anointing.  This valley of deep darkness will end and He will restore your soul.

May you release your "why Lord?" as a sacrifice, trusting Him to bring beauty instead of ashes, in His time.