The dead lie all around me. Their bodies decaying, the stench should fill the air, but it doesn’t. They are in their wooden boxes, under the ground.
Most of us don’t even think about this when we visit these patches of serenity dotting our towns and countrysides. All we see are the stones memorializing their lives. ‘They are resting in peace,’ we say, as we stroll up and down the neat rows of monuments. Eighty years of living, and all we see is a twenty-two by twenty-seven inch piece of granite.
Their bodies lie under this pastoral scene of verdant grass and maple trees. Rows upon rows of wooden boxes. Some are fancy and polished, some just simple pine boxes. Inside all are the same. Once the flesh and organs are gone, all that is left are the bones.
Stones and bones, the remnants of life.
What happened to them before they came to this final resting place? Each of them had to pass through the valley. Remember the reference to “the valley” in the twenty-third Psalm: “…I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…” Each of those people now lying beneath the ground once passed through the valley of the shadow of death.
Each of their journeys was a little different from the rest. Some went in their sleep. Some endured a long trial. For some, it was an “accident” that put them there early. For the sick, dying “early” may in fact, have been a plus. Some saw their children go before they. That was their valley, wouldn’t you say?
Yes, we pass through a number of valleys before we come to the valley of the shadow of death. There are valleys of depression, despair, doubt, bondage, fear, anger…There are various reasons why we may find ourselves in those valleys, but once we are there, the valleys look pretty much the same.
They are dark and low and very lonely. Why? God is not there. (Or so we make ourselves believe.) When I am in the valley I make myself believe that I am alone. But, if I choose to look up when He calls from the throne, I know that in Him I am never alone.
I reach out my hand to Him. His love brings me to higher ground. Then the valley is not a pit anymore, but a necessary step in the journey. He fills that valley with light, and then I can see trials for what they really are—integral parts of God’s perfect plan for me. For when it is dark, I know I need light.
It is I who chose to walk through the dark valley alone. It is my choice. He is always there, calling me back to Himself. If we learn to seek God when we are in those other valleys, then surely He will be with us through the last one.
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me…” (NIV Ps. 23:4)
Did these others, the dead around me, fear evil? Did they have God with them? I don’t know about them, but I know who I want with me in the valley!
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