Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "O Word Of God Incarnate"1 (Lyrics)
Psalm 23:4a – Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. (NIV)
Psalm 139:7 – Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? (NIV)
My story has a "happy ending"; not all do. There are no easy or trite answers in the dark, obscure valleys which comprise parts of our lives. Although it took years before I saw this time in my life through eyes of faith, I do now believe and know that Jesus was close then, so close.
At age 21, I was enduring my third year of university. The heavy course load was exhausting, but worse yet were the merciless expectations that I put on myself, especially the one which equated honour and success with personal worthiness and acceptance by family. I found no relief in my non-academic activities, and the liberal theology in church did not speak to me of a Saviour who loved and understood me, but rather bolstered my belief that to please God, as well as family, it was all up to me: the validation of my existence depended on my purity and success.
Throughout third year, I drifted repeatedly into and (then, only briefly) out of depression. Several times, I considered that the best solution to the hopelessness that I felt might lie with my brother's .22 rifle. In April, after exams, it all came to a head. While I was alone one day, I took the rifle out, loaded and cocked it, and turned it around, putting the end of the barrel to my heart. Then I picked up the ruler that I had, with which to push the trigger. It was at that moment that God brought into my mind a thought which, in my depression, I had completely blocked from consciousness: one week later would be my cousin's wedding! I couldn't do this to him and his fiancée! I carefully turned the gun away and unloaded it. So began a series of events which, over the summer, gradually lessened the depression's hold upon me. I now know, although at the time I still didn't realize, that I had God to thank.
As I read Psalm 139 recently, verse 7 leaped from the page: "Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?" — Thank You, Lord — Nowhere! — not even at the end of the barrel of a gun!
Life will bring us — you and me — through more valleys where, in the darkness, God's presence and His leading may be obscured to us. In these times, through Jesus Christ who walked this way before us, let us trust that "You are with me."
Prayer: Jesus, thank You for walking with us through the valleys of shadows in life. Help us, Holy Spirit, to hold onto this truth. Amen.