When was the last time you were brave? Not brave about what you do or what you believe, but brave about who you are? Today, I need to speak bravely. My heart needs to hear what my mouth needs to speak so my legs will be strengthened on the journey because today that journey seems a little longer and more shadowy and fear is wanting to creep in through the smallest of cracks in my confidence. Maybe your heart needs to hear this too. Maybe my brave can be your brave today.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
I am alive.
No. There is another word. One that reaches more deeply into the context of my heart and soul, one that says “there is more to you than oxygen and blood coursing through veins.”
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
I am fully alive – fruitful in season and out of season, in bright and dark times, to be content in the now while continuing to look expectantly to the not yet.
I am not waiting for a day. I am not longing for a future. For I have found the place where life finds its true life. I am walking in the valley where death’s shadow lingers long, and I thrive here.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,
for you are with me…
The shadow has been there from the beginning, from the moment mankind fell and the world became littered with sin, and death became as much of a reality as life. Words like kill, steal, and destroy joined our vocabulary – words Jesus himself used to describe the father of lies, the enemy, Satan.
If we live and breathe, we walk through this valley. There is no escaping it. There is no ignoring the shadows or willing them away. For every “Look how good God is” moment in our lives, there will be a “where is God in all this?” moment that will cause war to rage between our trust in Him and the doubt we feel.
The voice in those shadows speak – and this is what it says:
“God just simply doesn’t love you as much.” And if we listen, that voice affects us. It causes us to believe that we are not enough for God or that God is not enough for us. That either we need to prove our value to Him, or that He needs to prove His worth to us. That God is either too busy, or too forgetful, or simply self-serving. It fuels us with jealousy and envy – or guilt and remorse. It pushes us to build our own kingdoms or destroy the kingdoms of others – to become the ones who steal and kill and destroy others, or ourselves.
So how can there be any hope for us in the darkness of the valley?
In the same way I know the valley – and the shadow – are real, I also know this:
Sovereign God is there – not too busy, not too forgetful, not too self-serving. He is there, in the midst of the war that rages, making everything purposeful. He is there, in the valley, making a way for us to not only live but live fully.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
In the same valley where deaths shadow lingers long, the ground becomes lush and green with the breaking of the dawn. Because the valley is also full of what is needed for life. The sun shatters the shadows and the ground becomes lush and green. As I allow my roots to grow in the cast of the shadow, so shall my arms stretch beyond the shadow to the sun. The roots nourish faith – faith that transforms “whys” into “thankful for’s,” faith that keeps me from wallowing in woundedness or marching in militance. Faith that gives me boldness to tell my story and mercy to tell the stories of others.
And faith yields hope – hope that allows God to make each moment in my life purposeful.
And that causes me to be brave. And to say, “I thrive.”
Today, I thrive. Today, I speak bravely.
What does your brave voice say today? Share it with me so I can be brave with you.