I’ve spent the past week sitting by my father’s bed in a hospital in Georgia. He fell while doing yard work (no 89-year-old man should be trimming weeds) and he hit his head on the concrete walkway behind his house. He has a fractured rib, 12 stitches in the back of his head and two bruises on his brain.
After a week, he still has no idea where he is.
On Monday, he said my name. On Tuesday, when I asked him the name of his church, he answered correctly. But when a nurse asked him who I was, he told her I was his grandson.
We don’t know what the next day holds for my dad, or the next month. Hundreds of people are praying for his healing, and there are signs that his motor skills and brain function are slowly coming back online. But whether he pulls out of this and goes back to driving his car, or whether he ends up in months of rehab, or if he dies, I’ve had to face the reality that we all get old, life is terribly fragile and death is inevitable.
We don’t do a good job preparing people for death and dying. I never had a class on it in school. We rarely even talk about it in church until someone has a funeral. It’s easy to develop a notion that life goes on and that we will never get old.
Yet the Bible doesn’t dance around the topic of death. In Genesis, the word “death,” “die” or “died” appear 68 times. It reminds us: “And Adam died,” “And Abraham died,” “And Isaac died.” One entire chapter, Genesis 23, is devoted to the death and burial of Sarah. On and on it goes, like the somber toll of a bell. Death is a cold, dreary specter that is an undeniable part of our existence on this side of eternity.
King David talked about walking “in the valley of the shadow of death” (Ps. 23:4a). He could write those words because he faced life-and-death crisis regularly. Only those who have lost a loved one or cared for a sick person know how tangible that shadow of death really is. It weighs on us like a thick fog. It makes us feel lost and alone.
I have felt that fog this past week. I felt it when I had to restrain my dad from pulling out his IV tube. I felt it when I asked him a simple question and got a blank stare. I felt it when I heard another patient in the hospital scream in pain.
Yet David was sustained in that dark season. He was not overcome. He wrote: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me” (v. 4). We have the promise of His presence no matter what is going on around us.
If you are walking through the valley right now because of a death, an accident, a serious medical condition, a financial crisis, the loss of a job or any other tragedy, stand on God’s immovable promises and let His words bring security to your soul. These four promises have meant the most to me during the past seven days:
Nahum 1:7 says, “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, and He knows those who take refuge in Him.”
“God is good, all the time,” has become a religious cliché. But it is a powerful truth if you let the words sink in. When we walk through dark times we are tempted to doubt God’s goodness. Don’t let the devil accuse God of abandoning you; run into the Lord’s strong arms and let Him remind you of His faithful care.
John 16:33 says, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
It does not matter what the world throws at you. Jesus said we would face trials and tests, but those words are followed by a comma, not a period. He calls us to face our difficulties with faith. He has already overcome every possible problem we could face. Knowing this will give you supernatural peace.
Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
When we face a crisis, our first reaction is to worry. But the antidote to worry is prayer. Share your fears and anxious thoughts with Jesus and let His peace override them. His peace will shield you from the darkness of despair.
John 11:25-26 says, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.” This is the ultimate source of all our joy.
Death is not final when the person who dies is a Christian. Jesus removed the sting of death; it has been swallowed up in Christ’s ultimate victory. Don’t let death or the threat of death steal your hope.
Let God’s promises guide you like signal lights through your dark valley. The future is bright on the other side.
J. Lee Gradyis the former editor of Charisma. You can follow him on Twitter at leegrady. He is the author of several books including 10 Lies the Church Tells Women, 10 Lies Men Believe, Fearless Daughters of the Bible and The Holy Spirit Is Not for Sale. You can learn more about his ministry, The Mordecai Project, atthemordecaiproject.org.
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