One of my friends recently posted about the day that she and her husband found out that their unborn daughter showed signs of having Down syndrome. It was a year ago and she was reflecting on the love of her church and the beauty of her daughter (now 8 months old) and the faithfulness of God. In her honesty, she wrote about the struggles of that day and those that followed, mostly the struggle of fear. Looking back she can see God’s good and right plan for their lives, but she admits that the struggle was real. She writes: “I was so afraid of the what ifs…the shadows…the things I didn’t know to be true. How kind is my God to be faithful to me even when I was so full of fear.” When I read that sentence, the Lord stopped me in my tracks. As I sat there on my couch getting ready to head to bed, it was if the Lord pulled back a curtain and gave me a moment of clarity. I could not help but think: ‘How often have I feared the shadows? How often have I trembled at things that might, or might not, come to pass?’ I want to believe that my faith is strong in those moments, we all want to believe that. But if we are honest, like my friend was being in her post, we cannot deny our fear of the shadows.
As I thought about her post over the next day, the Lord brought to mind two passages that deal with shadows. The first is the most famous poem/song in the Bible, namely Psalm 23. We use this psalm often at funerals to comfort ourselves as we think about death and dying. Yet, in our familiarity, we sometimes forget the original setting of the psalm. David was a man who was very aware of the constant threat of death. Maybe the next lion would get the best of him. Maybe Saul’s spear would find its mark. Maybe the Philistines would finally defeat him in battle. He knew that death was certain and he knew it could come for him at any moment. Yet, Psalm 23 is a song about the comfort and peace he had even in the midst of the threat of death. He writes:
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil…”
How could he not be afraid? From where did his comfort come? He tells us:
“…for you are with me, your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
David did not fear the unknown because he knew that the Lord was with him. God never promised that things would go easy or that no trouble would come, He just promised to be with us. His promise is not peace and ease but presence. Even when we sit in the presence of our enemies, even when their threats are all around us, even when the shadows are dark and unknown, even then, the Lord prepares a feast for us to enjoy. Even then, our cup overflows.
The shadows of the unknown are always before us. What will happen with my job? What will happen with my finances? What will happen with my children and my family? What will tomorrow bring? What is lurking in those shadows? The truth is, we don’t know, we can’t know. Sometimes the next day will bring sorrow and sadness. Sometimes we can look back and laugh at our fears. But during the dark night, we cannot know what the morning will bring. Yet, we can be certain about this: Our God will be there and He will be for His people. How do I know that? Because of the second passage that I thought about after reading my friend’s post:
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17)
No variation or shadow due to change. Everything around me can change, but not the Father of lights. There is no shadow in Him. And through Him, through faith in Him and what He did for me in sending His Son to ransom my soul at the cross, I can overcome my fear of the shadows.
I am so thankful for the honesty of others as they share about what the Lord has taught them in difficult times. It helps me understand my own struggles and hopefully prepares me for the ones I have yet to face. It helps me see that in Christ I have no reason to fear the shadows.