Does God really walk with us in the valley of the shadow of death?
God seeks to love us into life every day of our lives. His mercies are fresh every...every morning, not just when we're doing stuff right or our lives are comfy and full so that we say we're "blessed." God especially delights to walk with us, indeed bless us, when our lives look anything but blessed, when we are in trouble, illness, when we are wretched and blind and poor (Matt 25). He gets a kick out of it when somebody dares to sing "Hear Him ye deaf; His praise ye dumb, your loosened tongues employ; ye blind behold your Savior come, and leap, ye lame, for joy" (Charles Wesley).
I was recently blessed beyond measure when I was sick as a dog and very definitely smack dab in the middle of the dreaded valley of the shadow of death. Oh I felt wretched, and my strength and health are still only about 50% of my usual vim and vigor. I couldn't stop shivering enough to even take my hand out of the covers to answer a text, couldn't make it to the bathroom, and food tasted like rotten wood sprinkled with rust due to all the antibiotics.
But I was blessed. Deeply, transformingly blessed.
By a wife who loves nothing more than for us to take turns caring for one another in these times.
By friends who gave up badly needed vacation time to be by my side and be Jesus to me.
By a church which not only didn't throw me on the trash heap when I couldn't preach or serve but embraced me in every conceivable way and, small though they be, showed what God's love looks like.
By doctors and other ministers at two hospitals I inhabited for 31 of 45 days in May and June.
By prayer love messages and sleep and cool water and a hand to hold and the presence not only of the living but of Mom, Dad, Granddad, a host of witnesses surrounding me and saying, "Even now, even in this valley you are a deeply loved treasure dearest Madoc."
I was blessed. And as I wait in a motel room for yet another procedure Monday, I am blessed.
For God in Jesus Christ does indeed walk with us, blessing us richly, through the valley of the shadow of death. And as we stroll through the misery together, as He touches us with His love through these and others of His ministers, He whispers the mantra of His healing: "I am with you, that is all you need" (2 Cor 12:9, TLB).