The Shadow Valley

Posted by jon on January 31, 2011 in but seriously... |

Who is scared of the dark? If we are honest, most of us are. From childhood on there is a natural fear of the dark. Of course in reality it’s not the dark we’re afraid of, it’s what we can’t see that scares us. When you are lost in the dark it is only natural to feel the onslaught of worst-case-scenarios threaten to overtake you. In the dark, even the most mundane objects can become terrifying monsters, and closets become the devils playground.

We read in Psalms 23 about the “valley of the shadow of death,” and what would be more terrifying and seem further from God than being plunged into the darkness of the “Valley of Death”. We have all walked there, and felt the despair of the shadow valley, and we have all tasted the fear that is the darkness.

Sometimes these valley trips are short, sometimes they feel like long seasons, and sometimes they last so long we are convinced that the valley and its shadows are all there is and the light was only a dream. Perhaps you’ve been there. Been in a place that is so dark that the pain and dread overwhelm you and you know that you will die in this valley. You are not alone there.

But in the darkness there is a curious truth about shadows. It is a truth the shadows would rather you not remember. Shadows are cast by light, and the darker the shadow the brighter and more intense the light must be. How true it is that when we see our darkest shadows it means the light is shining on us the brightest…we’re just looking the wrong way.

Even in the deepest darkness we are never absent from the light. Being in God’s light doesn’t mean there are no shadows and no pain; it means that God is shining on you with grace and love. And it is by God’s good grace and God’s love that we are given hope to walk this road, even through the valley. We all must visit the shadow valley, but it is not our home. God is home, we live in the far country.

Below is a prayer that was given to me by a wise man. I kept it with me during a trip through the valley. I hope it speaks truth to you. Also links to previous talks on this subject.

God is everywhere.

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in everything I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may do nothing about it.

Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

~ Thomas Merton

Also see previous posts
The Bad Times Will Come & More on the Bad Times (video)


1 Comment

  • Tracy McCollister says:

    The prayer by Thomas Mertons is really meaningful and rings true with me about my life. I often have the feeling that I am all alone and that no one cares a whit about me — not even God. It is usually at that time that I read/hear about someone who really has reason to feel “alone.” I know that God is everywhere, but sometimes I just lose faith in that fact and begin to think that God is nowhere. But, all I have to do is turn back to the guidebook for life, God’s Holy Word, the Bible. Thank you for posting the prayer.

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