Twenty six days ago my father passed away.
These words still seem unreal to me, even as I write them here. In a month’s time I’ll be celebrating my first birthday without him, and that is even more unreal.
“Your word is a lamp to guide my feet, and a light for my path.”Psalm 199:105
One of the most referenced scriptures surely has to be Psalm 23, and it’s especially quoted in times of hardship. Today I find myself asking what this Valley of the Shadow of Death is supposed to look like? I’m no theologian, but I do believe that Holy Spirit speaks to us through the Word, and breaks open the scriptures so that we might know Him. And therefore, even though I’m sure there’s so much more to Psalm 23 than what I can endeavour to break down in a single post, here are some of my thoughts on the matter:
The Lord is my best friend and my shepherd. I always have more than enough. The Lord gives me a place to rest — I am safe in His love. The Lord makes me whole, and gives me new life. He shows me the paths of life, and leads me to walk in His ways. By walking where He guides me, I bring honour to His name.
Lord, when your path takes me through valleys of darkness, I will not let fear be my master because You take care of me. You remain close to me, and lead me all the way! In your presence, I am strong, and my heart is filled with peace. Your love comforts me, and takes away my fear. I will never be lonely because you are always near! You anoint me with your Holy Spirit, and you fill me until my heart feels like it will burst! I am not afraid of the future because Your goodness and love is always with me — all the days of my life.
And afterward, when all my days have been lived, I will enjoy your presence — forever with You!
- God does not change.
Our circumstances might change — for better or for worse — but that does not alter who God is. His Word remains true — He cannot lie! One of the scriptures that I’ve prayed most over my life has to be Romans 12:2 — that Holy Spirit would renew my thinking to line up with the Truth of His Word. There is only one truth I care about, and that’s the Kingdom’s perspective. This does not mean that we live in denial of reality. It means we are anchored in Him, and when the storms of life tug us into deep waters, we are sustained by His presence and His word keeps us steady. He is the same — yesterday, today and forever!
- He is faithful
Time and again I find myself flipping to Genesis 22 in my Bible to read how God called Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Isaac. It seems ridiculous that an Almighty God should go back on His promise and take back Isaac whom he had promised to Abraham as his legacy — to be the father of nations. And yet, that’s exactly what happened. This is one of the most important events in Christian history, in my opinion, because it prophesies the death of Jesus — God’s plan to reconcile Man to Himself with a worthy Sacrifice that would settle the claim of death and sin for all eternity. This is of course an important lesson in obedience as well. Faith does not require understanding. It requires obedience. If God does not change, and His word is reliable Truth, then faith requires obedience (action) as a response to this Word. The one thing that stands out to me in Abraham’s life is that obedience is always better than sacrifice because He who has promised is faithful. We so often hold on to the promises, that we loose our grasp on the Promise Maker. He is faithful to provide above and beyond anything we could hope for, pray for, or imagine. He provides the Sacrifice. The journey through impossible times, this valley, might be tough, and you might be questioning God, or your own sanity as you undertake this step of faith. John 10:10 assures that it is the enemy who is the destroyer and that God brings Life and Life in abundance — this is the assurance we have; He is faithful to restore! He is faithful!
- perfect Love casts out fear
Psalm 23:4 notes that even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. Fear paralyses us into passivity. Faith empowers us to be obedient. One of the most transformative revelations to come into my life, was the understanding that God lives inside me — Holy Spirit empowers me to act and live outside my natural gifting and limitations, and to live according to a supernatural truth. This isn’t some pie-in-the-sky philosophy, but a DNA re-structure of our spiritual blueprint, the Divine Design which God laid down when He created man in His likeness. The God who speaks Life into existence, who is the personification of Love, lives inside us — He expels darkness, and He defeated death. So, when we find ourselves in circumstances that tell us death and destruction are upon us, we don’t have to fear or believe the lies of the enemy, because He is the hope that anchors our soul.
On 18 September, four days after my father passed on, I had the privilege of sharing this scripture as part of the message I preached at my father’s memorial service.
10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.John 10:10
Isn’t this wonderful?
No matter what we lose on this side of Eternity, it can never take away, steal, kill, destroy or diminish that which holds eternal truth in Him: life, and life in abundance.
Of course, the death of a loved one is never easy, especially not the chaos that follows the absence, but our hope is secure in Him, the author and perfecter of faith, the One who gives life, the One who restores the years the locusts stole, the One who holds the keys to the Kingdom, the One who defeated death, the One who sits on the throne, the Lamb who was worthy to be slain.
This is the fulness of the promise we have in Christ: a life of fulness, not only here and now, but forever in His presence.
So today, as I look back on September, and the many ways in which every September from here on after will be different, I know that the valley isn’t the final destination. There is more to come! He is faithful! Death is not the end — in Him we have fulness in the here and now, but also forever in His presence!