Posts Tagged ‘the valley of the shadow’

As someone our family loves is going through the medical procedures to have the extent of cancer growth in his body investigated, ‘it’ is in the forefront of our minds. May God hold him in the palm of his hand, and may we be scared enough to live.

It scares us.

It makes us contemplate our life, and our death.

It is like a dark shadow that is possibly around the next corner, or not.

It may not touch us physically, but it will touch us all.

It will come into our life, and it just might take our life from us.

The ‘it’ I speak of is cancer.

For most of us, the word cancer is familiar … too familiar. Cancer is a word that is synonymous with death, because, for us all, there is someone we have known whose body has succumbed to that disease. At the same time, for us all, there is someone who has beaten that disease.

Cancer happens when abnormal cells grow and spread very fast. Cancer cells are like bunnies, they reproduce, quickly, and can take over their environment.

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, 40-45% of Canadians will develop cancer, while 24-29% actually die of the disease.  That means that, if diagnosed with the disease, you still have have a good chance of survival.

I just received my reminder of it being time for a mammogram (remember last summer’s posts Mammo 1, and Mammo 2?). It states: I have to say that the line, “early detection saves lives” is the main motivator for me to make that important appointment.

After a stint volunteering at Camp Goodtimes, a camp for kids affected by cancer, my daughter ‘debriefed’ with me about her experiences, her feelings and what she learned.

Well learn she did, and she brought her education home to mama.

What she learned was that those families with children or moms or dads with cancer are learning to keep living through the battle. They do not stop living. Instead, they live more intentionally, more fully, because they live with the shadow of death hanging over their heads. They know that every day is a gift. They know that every day is an opportunity.

She told me of the people she met, and how cancer was NOT what they talked about.

The kids talked about taking pictures of a cute guy, or of eating a yummy treat, or of swimming in the frigid lake. The parents talked about their kids, their jobs, and their homes.

The last night was an evening meal for the adults without the kids … the kids had a party. Once their separate meals were done, they all joined together for a big, fun, loud, joyous dance.

As she told me of their dancing, I was reminded of the numerous times that I have heard of joyous dancing before:

“… the month when their sorrow was turned into joy and their mourning into a day of celebration.”
Esther 9:22

“… a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance”
Ecclesiastes 3:4

“Then maidens will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.”
Jeremiah 31:13

“You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy”
Psalm 30:11

And it reminded me that we all have the shadow of death hanging over our heads. We are all going to die one day, and we should all live each day as though death were at our doorstep. Being cancer free does not mean that we have any guarantees of tomorrow.

Go and live as though you are being threatened by the Big C … dance!


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One of the best lessons I ever learned was from a woman speaking about the Twenty-Third Psalm.

The visuals that she created in my imagination are with me still, and there is not a time when I hear or read that Psalm that the pictures do not resurface in my mind’s eye.

The main point that I took from her beautiful speaking had to do with “the shadow of the valley of death.” Doesn’t that simply sound dreadful? Frightening? Foreboding? Dark? That is what I had always thought … until I heard her speak on this passage.

She described:
– the beautiful coolness, and protection that walking through a shadow on a hot day can provide
– the lush green, and refreshment that come from spending time in a valley

From her description, I am certainly not left with images that are dreadful, frightening, foreboding or dark. I am instead left with images of solace, rest, refreshment, and wonder.

“He makes me lie down …”

We mere humans are not often very wise. We push through the business of life. We equally push through the difficult of life, putting our nose to the grind, working only to get it finished (whatever ‘it’ might be). At times, God needs to force us to lie down. Not as an abusive figure who pushes us to our bed, but as a loving Father who sees our blurry-eyed stare, our inability to think straight, our fatigue that encompasses us from the inside out. And he gently takes our child-like hand, and leads us to a place of perfect rest, where He can watch over and care for our personal needs that we have denied.

“Yea, though I walk …”

It says nothing of running, yet, when we are going through a dark and difficult valley, our greatest desire is to run, so that we can get this season over! This was another of the points of the speaker I had heard, Jill Briscoe. Her point was that if God has allowed us time in the valley of the shadow, then there must be purpose in our placement there. There must be a message, a lesson, a maturing that He desires us to learn. It is not a place to race through, but instead a place in which to have our souls restored, while we are being taken care of by the refreshment, and protection in that valley.

“For You are with me …”

This valley is not a place where God plunks us down, and says, “I’ll be back when you have gotten a sufficient amount of sleep, and learned your lesson.” Instead it is a place where his presence, his comfort accompany us. We do not wander through the valley alone, we are walking through it, while our hand is held by our heavenly Father. Or, like the author of the famous Footprints poem, we are cradled in His arms.

“You anoint my head with oil …”

God is giving us His blessing. This blessing is the inheritance of the eternal valley of refreshment, an eternal Garden of Eden, where we can walk and talk with our Creator.

It is here, in the valley, that we will “dwell in the house of the Lord, forever.”

And that does not sound so dreadful.

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