North Santa Rosa

Living With Purpose

No life is immune to dark and painful experiences. All of us live through hours that are dark and mysterious, and some are fraught with danger and sorrow. Most of us will have experiences in which we will be tested thoroughly.

    A weak body or a chronic ailment brings many people into the shadows. Sleepless nights and weary days of tossing on a bed of sickness tend to take the sunshine out of life. Many of those who go down into the valley of sickness lose heart and become despondent. Yet even in the valley of physical affliction, there is a Great Shepherd who walks and talks to his own and says what many of us need to hear and desire to experience.

    There is what I picture, as a rolling river of grace, that’s been flowing for thousands of years and it shows no signs of depletion. In my visiting with sick people and those who suffer physically, I can’t think of another verse that I quote more often than (2 Corinthians 12:9), “My (God’s) grace is sufficient for you; for My strength is made perfect in weakness”.  These words of encouragement and hope can satisfy a person of faith when they hear them. The words are applicable to all believers. It is not something of bare adequacy, just covering the need with no overlapping margin. This promise is in direct proportion to the real needs of believers.

    Chaplains, pastors, religious leaders, and non-clergy alike lean upon the words of Psalm 23 where it says, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and they staff they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4).

    In our walk of life we are led down dark ravines and narrow valleys where rocky gorges are easy to cause us to stumble. We are constantly exposed to attacks from our enemies. Let us not be afraid. But with a promised assurance, let us lean upon the Great Shepherd who has a keen eye, a brave heart, a strong arm, and stands ready to spring in our defense and lead us through the wilderness of earth and eventually to the pastures of peace in heaven. That is what awaits the believer after this physical life.

    We cannot escape the fact many of us have entered the valley of disappointment in these trying days. Some cherished possession is taken from you, or some object on which you had set your heart is snatched out of your reach, a loved one is taken before you were ready for them to go to the other side, or some friend whom you had trusted implicitly suddenly proves unfaithful and leaves you, you experience the bitterness of disappointment, and feel like you are drowning beneath the waves of grief.

    Many recently have gone into the valley of bereavement. The shadows are dark when we have to say good-bye to father or mother, brother or sister, husband or wife, son or daughter. The shadows are so dark, and yet those of us who have gone into the valley of bereavement know that in this experience, Christ is nearer and dearer than at any other time in life. In experiences like these, he gives a peace that passes all understanding.  

    I ask you to consider the deeper meaning of the “shadow of death”. When a believer passes, they experience the shadow of death. They do not experience the substance of death. For when a believer dies, their soul and essence of their being lives on and never dies. That’s why Psalm 23 gives comfort to so many. Death is but a shadow—real in physicality, but only a shadow spiritually. Those who do not trust Christ, experience more than a shadow; they experience the substance of death.

    When we enter the valley of the shadow of death, one must say goodbye physically to all the living who are near and dear to them. You can neither keep a loved one from entering the valley nor accompanying them through it. Only the Good Shephard can accompany the sheep or children of God as they go through the valley of the shadow of death. With the assurance of His presence and companionship, there is no reason for complaint or fear. Nothing else matters on this earth at the time of death, but the fact that He is with us and will take us to a better place. The Bible says, “Thou (God) art with me” is a positive guarantee that all will be well.

    Once when traveling along a scenic road in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, I came upon a series of tunnels. As a drove the car, I enjoyed the beauty of the sunlight and its cascading shine upon the side of the mountains. I was abruptly surprised how dark it became when I drove through the tunnel.

    Those who have traveled by railroad or car and entered a long winding tunnel, are somewhat alarmed when they are suddenly plunged from the sunlight into the darkness. But we do not have to be afraid, because we can know there is a way out on the other side of the hill or mountain. Even so, those who walk through the valley of the shadow of death need not be afraid, because they know the Great Shepherd, who has cared for them throughout their lives; never failed them and is walking beside them through the valley. And he will bring them safely to the exit and into the Father’s house and into the presence of the dear ones who have preceded them. There is a comfort in knowing this.

• This bi-weekly column is written by Matthew Dobson. He’s a Public Health Services Manager for the Florida Department of Health and the Pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church in the New York community of Jay, Florida. His “Living With Purpose” Book series can be found and purchased on www. Amazon.com. You can contact him by email: rmdobson@liberty.edu.

Posted by on Aug 29 2021. Filed under Church News, Churches, Living With Purpose, Local, Top News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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