A friend recently asked me what scripture verse was encouraging me the most lately. Without hesitating, I responded, “…And lo, I am with you always, even to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20b, NKJV)
I reasoned from my literary mind as to why this meant so much to me right now. I know this passage is what sums up the great commission. And that’s a whole ‘nother conversation for a whole ‘nother day. I know that “lo” really means something like, “surely.” But the reason this verse speaks to me right now is because of a play on words I hear when I hear these words of Jesus.
I hear it like this: “And LOW, I am with you always, even to the very end of the age.”
Since hearing the words, “Emily, I’m afraid we have some sad news today. There is no heartbeat,” I’ve been in one of the very lowest valleys of my life. But I haven’t been alone. No, Jesus has been with me.
As I answered my friend’s question, more truth was unveiled to my valley-trodding soul. It was more than a play on words. God had told me already that He would be with me even at my lowest of lows.
The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
(Psalm 23:1-4, NKJV)
I’m low right now because I’m still in the valley of the shadow of death. My son’s shadow is ever present as pregnant bellies of loved ones around me grow toward the season of due dates I was to be in, yet mine doesn’t.
Some Milestones have already been reached.
The pregnancy announcements that came after my son’s obituary.
The end of what would have been my first trimester.
The first baby shower invitation and attendance.
The season of pumpkins and only my flattened belly showing in pictures.
But so many milestones lay ahead…especially the date I would have been due.
This valley of the shadow of death is a gestation period for my grief.
In the valley of the shadow of death…
The Lord…He IS my shepherd. My heart may feel caught in a state of wandering and wondering. I may not be sure how to navigate the grief and the questions from myself and others. But The Lord…He leads me in wonder from my wandering and wondering to wonders unknown to my weary mind and heart.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures… He takes the dry and crusty plus the thick and muddy and gives me rest even in land that was cultivated from a once barren state to lush. He gives me rest in redeemed, tended to places that provide nourishment.
He leads me beside the still waters… He sees that my clothes are tattered from the waves that have tried to swallow me. He hears my cries for help and reminds the oceans that they have boundaries. He gives me respite from the storm by waters that are offered for refreshment…to drink living water from and to wash off the blood, sweat, and tears that have come from the high seas.
And when it feels like I’m not going to make it any further…
He restores my soul. That’s all there is to it. He gives me what I cannot give myself. He re-energizes me when my batteries have started to fritz out. He grants me all that I need to carry on.
He leads me in paths of righteousness… The other paths are there. I could go down them to be sure. But the one who has invested His all in healing my body, soul, and mind…that’s who I’ll follow. The paths He takes me down bring purpose to my pain because He uses them…
For His name’s sake… He redeems my sorrows and little by little offers grace in the knowledge that my sorrows create a fellowship with Him that is even deeper than the valley I am walking through. He trades my sorrows for a platform for His name, to draw others to follow His leadership through the valley of the shadow of death toward the still waters, the green pastures, and the restoration.
Yes, I’m walking through the valley of the shadow of death… but I’m not sitting. I’m not standing. I’m not lying down there. I’m walking through.
So I won’t fear any evil. Because nothing can keep me there. Nothing can separate me from the love of my Good Shepherd.
His rod… it nudges my overwhelmed, spiraling mind back to truth as He helps me take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.
His staff…it leads me in the way everlasting. It leads me to peace.
And that comforts me.
He tells me even more. But for now, that’s enough. The rest…I look forward to…
My cup does run over.
His goodness and mercy…they keep following me…and they won’t stop.
One day, I will dwell in the house of the Lord…Forever…
I’ll be moving in- with my son- and my husband… and the rest of our family…the family of God… to enjoy the roofs of forever that our Heavenly Father has built.
Yes, Low He is with me…even in the valley of the shadow of death.
Are you comforted by His presence? Do you know His peace…even in the valley of the shadow of death?
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future,nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:37-39, NIV