Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. Psalm 23:6
I opened my laptop and found two post-it notes on the keyboard, scribbled in handwriting I know so well. I’d wept in front of my daughter about something beyond my control. And later that day, her spirit met me in the solitude of my kitchen.
“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 staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4. God will comfort you. And will walk through this with you.”
She’s eleven, and I’m supposed to be reminding her about God’s forever presence. About the One who doesn’t fear the valley full of shadows. About the Rescuer who doesn’t stop rescuing. But there are moments that turn into seasons when you’re so in touch with your weakness, with your realness, you’ll drink grace from a child without shame.
Have you walked the valley shadowed by the inescapable? Are you plagued by crevices of unanswered questions?
Mystery without hope shackles you to valleys deep. Are you convinced you’ll never make it to the mountain? I’ve been there, too. We know death is unavoidable, but headlines and conversations with friends and faces we love the most all point toward the unraveling whether we’re ready to see it or not. The winter branch, a fading flower — we can’t escape the reminders that death is on its way.
Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23:6
Look over your shoulder. Can you see the mercy? Surely, the Author says. Surely, goodness and mercy are right there following you. Can you feel goodness pursuing? Can you see mercy running after you, chasing you down?
Whether you’re stumbling in the valley or you’re running away, surely grace and truth, forgiveness and relief are on the forever pursuit.
Are you crawling because fear won’t let you take another step? Stumbling because you’re reliving all those regrets? Slipping because your heart is so tired that Exhaustion has become your identity? Running away because it’s easier than risking…easier than reading your story and finding hope unfulfilled?
If I don’t search, I won’t be disappointed. And the classic “push you away before you push me away” leaves us desperate in our cynicism. Leaves us lonely in our doubt. What if I come up empty-handed? Yes, sometimes it’s easier to carry a weary heart than hope.
And you may be almost to that mountain, ready to breathe deep and climb new heights. You may have endured the struggle and have quite a story to tell.
But those of you in that valley, I see you crawling and clutching and wondering how in the world you got there. You think you’re hidden in the shadows, and I know there’s no view. I know there’s no air to breathe. I know you’re dying in the monotony and routine of stumbling.
But when there’s no view, there are no distractions. And your eyes have no choice but to risk and look for goodness. And when you can’t breathe, His Spirit floods your being because that’s all you’ve got. And when you’re angry from the monotony, His mercy carries you when you least deserve it. Carries you to that place of safety, that place you could never crawl to on your own.
He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land, assured Dr. Martin Luther King.*
Many have gone before us. Many have crawled to the mountain and discovered it wasn’t about the mountain at all. But that’s another story for another day.
Hope does not disappoint. But if you just can’t go there yet, if you just can’t risk quite yet, turn around. Surely, goodness and mercy are following you.