The thing about shadowy places is that the sun is blocked out. We know intellectually it hasn’t gone anywhere – it’s still out there - but for this particular period we can’t feel its warmth, and the change in temperature has a psychological effect. Shadows also tend to suggest alternative realities, indistinct shapes provoke fears; and sounds which are ignored in broad daylight take on new significance in the gloaming. It is easy to see before the days of electric light how the shadows of twilight and darkness became the home to all sorts of ghouls and malevolent forces, both real and imagined.
David knew many such shadowy periods; times when his family misunderstood him, his closest friends turned against him, times when he was hungry and a fugitive, times when the consequences of his own actions haunted him. He describes these periods like walking through a steep-sided gorge, valleys of deep darkness and distress.
And yet David made this joyful declaration. Even in his extremity David had discovered the amazing truth; sun or shadow, ‘You are with me!’ The shadows are real enough, but there is a greater reality - the sun is still out there, despite our ‘experience’ to the contrary; God is with us.
Fear rises in shadowy places: fear that we are alone; fear of the evil that lurks in the darkness; fear that we will not make it through safely. Evil has an illusory nature; it puffs itself up, becoming large in our imagination. However, the truth is our Shepherd has promised He will never leave us or forsake us – and in His Presence, peace returns.
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.
The New Testament says that ‘Satan is a roaring lion seeking whom he can devour’ [1 Peter 5:8]; but it is also clear that our Shepherd is equal to all of his attacks. His rod of authority has been raised up victoriously in the Cross, the lion has been rendered toothless by the One who works all things for our good [Romans 8:28]; and in this we can find comfort and peace.
If you are walking through a valley of shadows at the moment, begin to declare these truths over yourself and your loved ones:
God is good to me all the time [Psalm 106:1]
No weapon formed against me will prosper [Isaiah 54:17]
Jesus came to destroy the Devil’s work [1 John 3:8]
Jesus has defeated every evil on the Cross [Colossians 2:15]
Nothing will ever separate me from His love [Romans 8:38,39]
He has promised to work out even this difficulty for my good [Romans 8:28]
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