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
Your story is so powerful, Emily! Such beautiful reminds in sorrow. Though I’ve never been where you’ve been yet, I do worry about those possibilities as we aren’t trying for a kid yet until he’s out of school. It’s something I worry about since my cousin struggled with fertility issues, but I do hold tight to God for His will whatever it may be.
Thank you for sharing your joy and sorrow with us! I will be praying for you and David…and I don’t really have words of “comfort” to say that you’ve probably not already heard… but I am praying for you. I will hold you close to my heart. Sending hugs from one of your Judson Sisters. <3
Thank you so very much for the encouragement, Liz. I’ve been where you are with wondering, “What if…” about the future. Truthfully, I still find myself there. But through it all, the Lord is teaching me so much about taking all of my thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ. Sometimes, I need others to help me get back on track with that because I know the truth, but sometimes my mind needs to be re-penetrated by it. Thank you for praying for us and for your support. Remember, for every “But how?” there is an even greater “But God.”
Oh, my sweet friend. It is so hard to watch a sister in Christ go through a trial, but do know how absolutely BEAUTIFUL you are in the midst of it. God does not have you walking this difficult road in vain. I’ve been studying 1 Peter in my devotional time, it’s all about our identity in Christ and how suffering makes us to look more like Jesus. It is so difficult to understand God’s ways, especially when pain has a face that we know. But, do know that he is working for good. You are such a beautiful woman after the Lord’s heart. Praying for you, friend.
Thank you so very much, sweet Victoria. 1 Peter and 2 Corinthians 1 have been so much fuel for my fire of striving..”that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Phil 3:10-11). In our weaknesses, He is most strong. I sit in wonder as He trades my ages for beauty. Love you, friend!