Walt Whitman said, "Keep your face always toward the sunshine - and shadows will fall behind you." There is more truth to those words than Walt may have known. When we face the Son, the shadows of doubt, fear, and plaguing memories can finally fall behind us, but not until we make that full transition to beholding his light. In the shadows of doubt we find this building fear and mistrust. In the shadows of fear we linger too long in places we feel we cannot escape unharmed. In the shadows of plaguing memories we find ourselves holding to what has proven to do little more than disappoint. Shadows are not our dwelling place - they are the result of the Son being behind us, right there for us to move toward when we are finally ready to flee those shadows!
The Eternal is my shepherd, He cares for me always. He provides me rest in rich, green fields beside streams of refreshing water. He soothes my fears; He makes me whole again,
steering me off worn, hard paths to roads where truth and righteousness echo His name. Even in the unending shadows of death’s darkness, I am not overcome by fear. Because You are with me in those dark moments, near with Your protection and guidance, I am comforted. (Psalm 23:1-4 VOICE)
Many are familiar with the words of the 23rd Psalm, not so much because they memorized it, but because it is one of the oft recited Psalms in scripture. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want....Yea I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. David penned these words, but few know there is a real Valley of Death in the region in which he shepherded his sheep as a young lad. It is a very narrow and steep canyon you can navigate through, but it is frequently dark, shadows abounding simply because light can only reach it around high noon. It was a passageway between one section of land and another near Jericho. Not only was it dark, but it was long. There are oft times when we pass through what seems to lead nowhere and which presents itself as that which will know no end. In those times, we can do nothing more than to trust and obey.
As we look at David's words, we see his first assurance in dark times is to remind himself of God's care. The shepherd never left the sheep, didn't take his gaze from their masses, and always listened carefully for their bleating. He knew the cry of the one stranded because it wandered too far from the flock as much as he knew the cry of one in danger of being overtaken by some predator in the night hours. As he likens his careful concern for his flocks to God's careful watchfulness over those who love and serve him, he knows the love and care of God go much deeper, is even more enduring, and is without compromise.
Dark places come to us in life - it is part of life itself. We must pass through some things which seem to wind their way around, casting shadows innumerable and bringing uncertainties at each bend in the path. Yet, in the midst of this "valley" which casts such deep and dark shadows, light is always assured when we look not at the walls, but at the glimmer of light just beyond their deep shadows. Too many times, these passageways become all too much worn and hard paths - because we have traveled them way too many times. In those places frequented way too often and no longer welcomed by us, God enters in and begins to guide us from those all too familiar paths into places of refreshing and peace.
Those same walls that cast unending shadows of doubt, fear, and plaguing memories can become the very walls which echo the praises of hearts expectant of God's deliverance! Walls of a dark and deep canyon don't need to confine us, but can amplify the greatness of what God is doing within us! We don't have to cry loudly because those walls begin to gently magnify even the weakest of whimpers and crescendo the loudest of words spoken in honest prayer to him! The walls no longer cast shadows, but magnificently exalt the one who is guiding us through that dark valley. Just sayin!