Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4 (ESV)
Nothing happens to us by chance. It comes to us by God’s design. Even what Satan brings is by God’s design. And every one of us at some time in our lives (maybe more than once if we live long enough) will walk through the valley of the shadow of death or as the Hebrew suggests, the valley of deep darkness. We will all experience, as it has been coined, the dark night of the soul.
The dark night of the soul often creeps in on us when a loved one dies, when we or a loved one suffers a tragic accident or a major illness, when our means of providing sustenance for ourselves and our family is taken away or when we have been wronged by someone. This dark night of the soul is often accompanied by feelings of abandonment by relatives, friends and even God. In fact God seems to be absent or at best distant.
The story of Job gives us a vivid picture of the dark night of the soul. Job was a blameless and upright man who feared God and turned away from evil and God had greatly blessed the work of his hands (Job 1:1, 10). Yet in one day almost everything Job possessed was taken from him. His lively hood was either stolen by thieves or consumed by fire. Most of his servants were murdered and all of his children were killed in a storm (Job 1:13-19). Job later lost his health and was ridiculed by his friends and even misunderstood by his wife. Few people have suffered to the extent that Job suffered.
So often we fail to realize that God designed the calamity Job suffered. It was God’s idea. Satan gladly carried out the calamity against Job, but he only did so with God’s permission. And he only went as far as God allowed (Job 1:6-11; 2:1-7). In the midst of Job’s suffering God patiently watched and listened as Job struggled to understand why all the calamity had befallen him and sought to justify himself. Yet in the end God revealed himself to Job in a way Job had not seen (Job 42:1-6).
So it is with us during our dark night of the soul. Though God seems so distant or even absent, in reality he has not left us alone (Hebrews 13:5). He has designed our calamity and is working all things together for our good; namely that we might take on the image of Jesus (Romans 8:28-29). The apostle Paul encourages us, So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. (2 Corinthians 4:16-17 ESV)
Oh that we could have the mindset of David and other psalmists so that when calamity comes we would not fear knowing that God is working with and for us. That we would know that God is on our side (Psalm 118:6), that even though we may die, he preserves our life and fulfills his purpose for us (Psalm 138:7-8; Luke 21:16-18). Of the righteous the psalmist wrote, He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD. (Psalm 112:7 ESV)
Do you trust in God even though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death?
Scriptures for meditation:
Psalm 27:1; 46:1-3; 56:3