Mountain or Valley – He’s Still There!

Our pastor has been doing a series on Psalm 23 – taking one verse at a time. Today she spoke on one verse that has been such a blessing to me throughout the past almost 20 years. It is the verse that says:

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for Thou are with me.

That is the verse that came to my mind the day of my first visit to the oncologist following surgery for breast cancer. His first words to me were “The odds are not in your favor.” Immediately the above verse came to my mind.

I did not know if the Lord was assuring me I would walk through this valley to health and life on the other side or if I would walk through this valley into death.

What was comforting to me was the assurance that He was going to be with me through this time.

Looking back on my life as I near the last years of life I am so thankful to see all the times He has been there for me.

What comfort I find in knowing He will continue to walk with me through the rest of my life – both on the mountain times and the deep valley experiences life may bring.

At this point in my life I would say I’m mostly experiencing those “mountain” times. Last week my husband and I celebrated 37 years of marriage. What a blessing it is to be able to say that he is my bff and our love for one another is deeper and stronger than the day we married. We are blessed with good health for our age and we have a beautiful home to enjoy.

Yet I have been facing some “valley” moments these last few weeks. When I had surgery for cancer the surgeon apologized and said that he had done quite a bit of nerve damage as the lymph nodes were full of cancerous cells and he wanted to make sure he removed all the cancer. That plus the extensive radiation I had has left me with pain ever since. The damage done to my side has, with age, also led to a damaged rotator cuff. Surgeons now do not want to do surgery to repair the cuff because there has been so much nerve damage already done.

For whatever reason – old age I guess – the chronic pain that I have learned to live with has recently become much worse. It is especially difficult when I try to lay down and I have come to dread bedtime.

This morning my church family gathered around me and prayed for me. What an encouragement that was. One young man put some legs on his prayers and offered to come help me with my housework, even to vacuum my floors. My husband is able to help me and I refuse to just sit and give in – got to keep moving. But it was so kind of him to offer. That’s what real love is all about.

How blessed I am – how good to know not only that God is with me – but He has given me friends to love and support me.

Whatever situation dear reader you may be in – let me encourage you to lean on God. He is our Good Shepherd and His promises to be with us in “all” seasons I have found to be true.

Is It Faith in God – or Faith in Faith?

There seem to be so many articles out there on the web and in sermons today on the importance of believing in God when we pray….the importance of our words.

The Bible is clear that we need to believe in God when we express our petitions to Him.  Even science tells us that what we think – what we speak does affect us.  It is true that constant negativity will lead to depression and discouragement.

Having said that, I think we can take this “faith” issue to an extreme.  A friend once told me to never say I was sick or depressed or worried.  To her that displayed a lack of faith in God.

To me that is just a mind game.

I’m sick, I’m depressed, I’m worried, but if I don’t say it, if I don’t acknowledge I have some doubt, God will never know.  He will answer my prayer because He will think what great faith I have.  NOT!

If God is our Father, then isn’t it better to have a honest, open relationship with Him?  A loving father would be one to whom we could express our deepest feelings and one who would love us and do what He could to help us with those feelings that are not good for us.

I’m so thankful that I believe God loves me not because I am such a great woman of faith, but because I am his daughter.

In the Bible a father brought his child to Jesus to be healed.  When Jesus responded that all things were possible to one who believed, the man’s answer is one I have often prayed.  “Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief.”

I think of the early church that was gathered in prayer when Peter was put in prison.  In answer to their prayers, an angel came and rescued Peter.  Hurrying to the place where the church was meeting, when Peter knocked at the door and a servant girl told those praying that Peter was at the door, they did not believe her.

Obviously they were praying with a lot of doubt.  One could not really blame them.  Just a few days earlier the disciple James had been put in prison and then beheaded.  They had to be in fear that Peter also would suffer the same fate.  In spite of doubts, they prayed and God answered.

Sometimes I pray with great faith fully expecting God to grant my request.  Sometimes I pray with great doubt, afraid.  But in both circumstances I pray.

I think perhaps that is the greatest faith.  To pray to God and to trust that He in His wisdom will do what is best.  To realize I don’t always have the answers and my ways may not be what is best.

Years ago when I met my oncologist for the first time and he told me the odds were not in my favor, the words from Psalm 23 went through my mind.  “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”

When God brought that verse to my memory at that moment I wondered:

  • Was He saying I was going to beat this disease, going to walk through the valley to more years of a cancer-free life?
  • Was He saying I was going to walk through this valley by dying and receiving that hope of eternal life?

I did not know which alternative He had for me, but what I did know was the verse told me I did not need to fear for He would be with me.

So – when I pray, I pray with trust that He is in control and that He will do what is best for me – and that I may not always know what is best.  So – I pray and leave the results to Him.

My confidence, my faith is in who He is – not in how strong a believer I am.