When There’s Beauty in Waiting


Finding beauty in suffering

This was the view through my windshield the other day as I was waiting in traffic, stuck sitting through many cycles of the same traffic light. I’d been sitting there, frustrated and bored, wishing I was somewhere else—anywhere else—but then I looked up. For the rest of the wait, I sat, awestruck, and watched Him put on a show. If I hadn’t been stuck waiting, I would have missed it—but waiting gave me the opportunity to sit and revel in God’s power and artistry.

Waiting can be a bleak and painful time, but life is still beautiful—God is still doing great things for us—if only we will look up. We may find beauty in relationships, in unexpected kindness, in spiritual growth we didn’t see coming.

When I was waiting for true love, I found greater joy and intimacy in my walk with God, in learning to rely on Him for daily comfort and strength.

When I was waiting to get pregnant, God surprised me with new friendships that gave me the hope and comfort I needed to survive the struggle.

I didn’t yet have the things I was praying for, but God gave beautiful gifts along the way, unexpected blessings that eased the pain and lent joy to the journey.

Even now, as I wait on several Big Life Things, God is teaching me perseverance, humility, compassion. Showing me how to find joy in small things. Showing me that beauty is everywhere, even when we are waiting…we only have to look up.

I recently shared this story on Facebook Live, a.k.a. Lizzy Life Live! In the same chat, we talked about practical tips for having heart-to-heart talks with kids at all their different ages and stages. How do we draw quiet kids out? How do we connect on a heart level? How do we bring God into our daily conversations? You can watch the recording here

Finding beauty in waiting seasons and having heart-to-heart talks with our kids!

Nai-post ni Elizabeth Laing Thompson, Writer at LizzyLife noong Miyerkules, Marso 29, 2017

This post is expanded from my new Instagram account, @elizabethlaingthompson, where I am posting scriptures, encouragement, and humorous thoughts to help you through your waiting journey. I’d love to see you on Instagram!


If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy:

My new book, When God Says “Wait”

When God Says Wait: Navigating Life's Detours and Delays Without Losing Your Faith, Your Friends, or Your Mind

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Your Life Feels Wasted

When Mugs Break: Lessons in Fear

When Life Poops on Your Party

13 Scriptures to Help Siblings Get Along

Share this post with a friend: 


When Your Life Feels Wasted


When Your Life Feels Wasted

Photos courtesy of Unsplash

My mom has this funny prayer she prays whenever she comes for one of her always-too-short visits: “God, please make this visit feel like a long time.” At first I laughed—my delightful mom has the most faithful prayer life, and she prays about everything—but then I was like, “Oh, why not?”—and I started borrowing her prayer.

But you know what I’ve found? There’s something to Mom’s crazy prayer. Whenever we pray those words, time somehow moves a bit slower. Her visit, however short, feels long enough. Even if we only have hours together—a layover between flights—every minute feels fulfilling. Meaningful. Rich. When she leaves we may cry, but still we feel satisfied, knowing we made the most of what time we had. In the mysterious ways of God, he helps us stop and savor and be fully present in our fleeting, priceless moments together.

How to pray when life is delayed

Sometimes we want time to slow down . . . but when we’re waiting, we want it to speed up and slow down at the same time. We want the wait to be over now, with no more time lost. We feel this pressure most acutely when we’re in the middle of one of those life-altering waits: The wait for a husband. For a baby. For a healing. Tick, tick goes the clock; flip, flip goes the calendar page—and you’re still stuck.

You feel your twenties passing you by, and you’re still single…

You’re well into your thirties, and you fear your biological clock will expire before you get to have a family

Your forties are flying, and you’re still sick or depressed—not quite yourself—unable to fully live the life you have…

Your fifties are coming to a close, but still your adult child wanders . . .

And if you’re like me—always watching the clock, painfully conscious of life’s brevity—you can start to get paranoid: My life is wasting away. I’ll never get back this time. These are lost years.

Slow down time

But guess what? God is more powerful than time. Listen to this beautiful prayer:

“Relent, Lord! How long will it be?

Have compassion on your servants.

Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,

that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.

Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,

    for as many years as we have seen trouble.

Psalm 90:14–16 (emphasis added)

Do you get what the writer is saying here? He’s asking God to redeem lost time. To make up for lost years—to make Israel glad for as many days, as many years, as they have suffered.

Who wrote this prayer? Moses—Moses who spent forty years wandering in the desert, waiting for the Promised Land. Moses understood the pain of lost life and wasted years better than anyone. And yet he saw that God could still redeem that time, those desert years. In Moses’ eyes, it wasn’t too late. All was not lost. He knew the power of God—God who rained plagues and parted seas, God who appeared in cloud by day and fire by night, God who dwelled on the holy mountain. God could transcend time. God could make up lost years. God could make His people glad, so glad they couldn’t help but sing, for as many years as they had suffered.

We see God do this often in the Bible, showering suffering people with later-life blessings: Joseph. Naomi. Job.

I have seen God do this in my own life more times than I can count. After a tumultuous time in our church life, God provided a way for me and my husband to live in the same town as both our parents—we had never believed it possible, but we got to share eight happy years with both our families. We felt as though God went out of his way to comfort us after a time of trial.

After two years and nine months of infertility, God gave us three babies in…wait for it…two years and ten months. I can hardly see my computer screen for the tears filling my eyes—tears of gratitude, wonder, awe. It’s been eleven years, but still the joy of this blessing staggers me. Even now I ask God, “Why us, when so many others are still waiting?” I can’t answer that question, but I celebrate his gift even as I pray for others still awaiting theirs.

If you’re stuck on pause, mourning a delay, borrow Moses’ prayer. Remind God of the pain you feel watching time pass you by, and ask him to redeem the lost days. Ask him to restore joy. To make you glad for as many days—as many years—as you have suffered. I don’t know when or how God will answer your prayer, but I know he is listening. He is listening, he is concerned, and he is able.


If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy:

My new book, When God Says “Wait”

When God Says Wait: Navigating Life's Detours and Delays Without Losing Your Faith, Your Friends, or Your Mind

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Mugs Break: Lessons in Fear

When Life Poops on Your Party

On Pinkeye, Lice, and Love

My friend Maria’s story: Choosing Peace Through Unexpected Trials


Share this post with a friend: 


When God Says “Wait” Is Now Available! Gratitude! Links! Free Stuff!


Fourteen years is a long time to wait.

When God Says “Wait” hits bookstore shelves today! (Here’s where I stop typing and indulge in an embarrassing jig that can only be described as “Riverdance meets Rhythm Nation, but without the rhythm.”) I am SO EXCITED, but wow, what a long journey it’s been.

Fourteen years ago, a vicious case of jet lag kept me up all night and gave me a strange gift: an idea for a story I had to tell about characters I met that night, but felt I’d known always. By the time sunrise set the Atlanta skyline ablaze, I had penned the first two chapters of a novel and outlined the entire plot. By the time my fellow Atlantans were stumbling to their coffee makers, my career path had changed; life had changed. I was going to become a writer.

If you had told me that night that I would spend the next fourteen years pursuing that crazy dream (and seriously, writing is a crazy dream), I don’t know what I would have done. I suspect a truckload of chocolate would have been involved.

In the past fourteen years, I have written more hours than I could count (I suspect the hours actually add up to years of life at this point). Spent thousands of dollars on coffee and conferences. Run over one laptop with my car. (ACCIDENT. Seriously. I can explain.) Worked another laptop so hard it finally just choked and died.

Along the way I have indie published two books, The Thirteenth Summer and The Tender Years: Parenting Preschoolers (coauthored with my wonderful mom, Geri), and those valuable experiences taught me so much about hard work and the joy of simply sharing words, and life, with readers.

Meanwhile, after an agonizing struggle with infertility, Kevin and I had three kids in less than three years and lived to tell the tale. (The tale involved more poop and vomit than one sentence can describe, but even so, it was a life worth living. A tale (mostly) worth telling.) After a while we had a fourth child, because hey—what’s one more?!

Along the way I have discovered that my husband is THE BEST HUSBAND IN THE UNIVERSE. I always knew that, but now I know it more. He loves all of my work—even the stories aimed at twelve-year-olds. He has always taken this writing thing seriously, long before anyone besides him was ever reading my words. He generously gives me writing time. He sends me to conferences and views every dollar spent as investment, not expense. He tolerates my coffee habit, having accepted that creativity requires caffeine (and occasionally champagne). He doesn’t get hurt feelings when I trail off mid-sentence, lost in a sudden plot-twist revelation. When I get manic, he takes away my coffee and makes me take naps. And all the while, he’s just so daggum cute and funny and faithful.

Along the way I have found the greatest BFF-slash-writing-partner any writer could have, who knows what I want to say and how I want to say it better than I do; whose soul-stirring writing takes my breath away.

When God Says Wait in Barnes & Noble

This is my writing partner, Emma, in Barnes & Noble yesterday, with copies of my book! This is the same B & N where we met and have shared countless happy writing hours! Also, I helped her pick those fabulous boots. 🙂

In the past two years I have discovered the joy of connecting with people through words and scripture and silly stories right here on Lizzy Life. I cannot describe the joy this community has brought me. How I have loved sharing life with you here—giving you glimpses into our wacky world and hearing how our stories intersect with yours. You have helped me not write alone, not learn alone, not live alone.

Along the way I have found joy in writing with God. I cannot describe the intensely intimate and transcendent spiritual experience it was to write When God Says “Wait” with God. Every day writing was a day spent in constant communion with Him. Every day I prayed, “Fill me up and empty me out.” Every day, mystical as it sounds, He whispered words.

Along the way I have had the privilege to work with godly people whose courage, excellence, and giftedness blows my mind: my agent-slash-book-warrior Jessica Kirkland, who fights on no matter the odds. The entire team at Barbour: Kelly McIntosh, who is ever encouraging; Shalyn Sattler, whose heart and talent echo through every email; Mary Burns, who laughed and plotted with me and Shalyn and helped make marketing fun; Liesl Davenport, whose gifts for detail and design had me nearly weeping with gratitude; Laura Weller, copyeditor and comma-wrangler extraordinaire; Ashley Schrock, who designed the brilliant book cover; Jeane Wynne, publicist, cheerleader, and inspiring go-getter; my book launch team, who have made the “preseason” of the book launch such a joy with their enthusiasm and generosity.

Amazing friends have taken time out of their insanely busy lives to read and endorse the book—their generosity with their time and words has meant the world: longtime friends Chip and Pauli Wade, who we met when we were newlyweds and they were both cheerleaders at Georgia Tech; now they serve God in multiple capacities, as talented designers and HGTV stars; Lara Casey Isaacson, a writer friend whose ministry, example, and transparency are inspiring; Andy Lee, a local writer friend whose book, A Mary Like Me: Flawed Yet Called is a beautiful blend of Bible and storytelling; beloved friend Laura Whitaker, who has shared so many waiting seasons with me, and whose work with individuals with special needs is heroic; and devoted friend Marilisa Schachinger, who has also shared my waiting seasons (she was even brave enough to babysit the three-under-three, way back in the day!), and now honors God with her work as a business owner and entrepreneur.

And then there are our parents, Sam and Geri and Bill and Glenda, and our delightfully quirky family members, who have not just tolerated, but supported and encouraged, from the beginning. They have fasted, prayed, babysat, read drafts, given ideas, and picked me up off the floor a thousand times over. My sister Alexandra was enduring a horrific waiting season of her own the entire time I was writing, and her struggle inspired and guided me as I wrote—her spirit, too, is on every page. I could go on for pages about every single family member, but I am every day thankful for every one of them.

And my fiercely loyal friends, who have prayed with me and chosen to walk this journey with me even when the whole process was just so weird and confusing, and they secretly thought I was nuts (and of course they were right). Every girl should be so lucky to have such friends.

And my church family, who have prayed and listened and cheered me on for years, who have not made comments when I showed up to midweek wearing sweatpants, a hat, and crazy eyes. (Sorry about that.) They even let me share their poignant waiting stories in the book.

Much as it pains me and humbles me to say it—this is me, eating my words; Father, are you reading this?—these past fourteen years have taught me the value in waiting. I have seen that good things—maybe even the best things—truly come to those who wait.

The victory is all the sweeter for taking so long. The joy all the richer for following so much rejection, heartache, and doubt. The satisfaction all the more meaningful because it has been shared by so many—and it would not have been shared so meaningfully had it not taken so long. I recognize that; I celebrate what unparalleled joy it is to share joy. The thousands of prayers others have willingly offered on my behalf are staggering. Humbling. Overwhelming. I owe a prayer debt I could never repay.

Above all, I am so grateful to God for allowing me to write this book with Him and for Him. It’s all for you, God… do with it as you will.

Want to download two free chapters of the book? Here’s a link!

Want to check out the book trailer, starring my beautiful friends, and put together by my brilliant brother-in-law? Here it is!

Want to order the book? It’s available anywhere books are sold: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Christianbook.com, even in your local Lifeway. I’d love to hear what you think when you’re through—I deeply appreciate every response, every story, every word you send my way. I can’t wait to hear what you think!

-xoxo, Elizabeth


If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy:

When Mugs Break: Lessons in Fear

On Pinkeye, Lice, and Love

When Being a Grown-Up Means You’re Still Growing Up


Share this post here: 


When Mugs Break: Lessons in Fear


Photos courtesy of Unsplash.  

I sink into my friend’s cushy new loveseat with a grateful sigh. The eight-hour drive from my house to hers has left me exhausted—I don’t have great stamina as a long-distance driver, but today Cassidy and I have braved the long country roads between North Carolina and Georgia, just the two of us, for the rare treat of a mother-daughter trip to visit friends.

With a smile, my friend’s husband presses a steaming mug of tea into my hands. “You are the best,” I say. I’ve been looking forward to this moment for at least 200 miles. For a few seconds I cradle the mug, savoring the way warmth travels through the pottery, into my fingertips, down into my soul. My friend asks what I want to do tomorrow. I lift the mug to my lips, gathering thoughts.

In the silence between sentences there’s a strange little crunching sound, and suddenly I’m burning. Scalding tea is everywhere—drenching my hands, spattering my arms, filling my lap, soaking the chair. I yelp and leap to my feet. In one bleeding hand I hold the mug’s handle; in the other, I’m struggling to balance the now half-empty mug. My friend and her husband come running, our daughters come running. The next moments are a blur of shrieks and towels, Band-aids and blood. When pain stops and chaos settles, we register what happened: The handle separated from the mug, sending tea flying and pottery shards digging into my hand.

Eventually, when we realize that there’s more blood than actual injury, that my thick winter clothes have protected me from true burns, and that my friend’s forethought in stain-protecting her new loveseat has kept the furniture from total ruin, we dissolve into relieved and shaky laughter.

I change clothes, we clean up, and after a while we are back where we started, settling in to chat on the couches. My friend’s husband brews a fresh cup of tea and holds it out to me. For a heartbeat I hesitate—a hitch of anxiety stops my breath—and I slowly reach out to take the mug. As my friend launches into a story, I find myself holding the mug tighter than I should be, pressing it hard with both hands. I cast nervous glances at the handle, studying its width, weighing its strength. In spite of the rational voice in my head insisting, “This is so stupid, hold the dang handle,” I can’t bring myself to let go and hold the mug by the handle.

The next morning, my friend offers me coffee. Coffee, beloved coffee, sweet nectar of life. She pours me a cup and holds out the mug. A fluttering starts in my gut, and I find myself swallowing hard as I reach for the mug with my still-bandaged hand. She looks at me funny. “Are you okay?”

I nod my head yes. Shake my head no. Set the mug down. Confess with a laugh, “I’m afraid to pick up the mug!”

My friend laughs, then looks slightly wounded. “You don’t trust my mugs anymore.”

“Not just your mugs,” I say with a guilty grin. “Mugs in general.”

She assures me that the mug in question has been a reliable vessel for coffee and tea for many years and is worthy of my full trust. She holds it herself, waves it around to prove it. We laugh, I pretend to feel better, and I pick up the cup, hoping she doesn’t notice that I’m using two hands, unwilling to risk the handle.

Several days later I return home—home to my own coffee pot, my own familiar mugs, dear companions who have faithfully served me coffee and tea during countless prayer times, phone calls, and writing sessions. But even so, when I pour my first cup of coffee into my favorite mug, the “Our nest is blessed” bird mug my mom gave me, I find myself staring it down with eyes narrowed, suspicion rising: Are you going to fail me too? Are you hiding some unseen crack, some weakness in construction? We’ve lived a lot of life together, shared a lot of coffee and good memories, but now…I’ve been burned. I’ve changed—have you changed too?

mug-in-garage


Want more from Lizzy Life? Click here to sign up for Elizabeth’s quarterly newsletter, and you’ll receive a free download: 7 Two-Minute Devotions to do around the breakfast table with your family! And you can order Elizabeth’s next book, When God Says “Wait,” by clicking here! 


Over the next few weeks, I keep drinking coffee, but always with two hands, just in case. It’s weeks before I can lift a mug without pause. Months before I can enjoy coffee or tea without a twinge of bad memory pulsing somewhere in the back of my mind. The two-hand mug-hold becomes an unconscious habit. Even though logic tells me I’m being ridiculous—In all your thirty-eight years you have had three million positive experiences drinking from mugs, and only one bad experience with mug malfunction—the odds are totally in your favor!—every time I lift a mug, some primal instinct rises up to defend me. Keep me from getting burned. Keep me using two hands.

After a while it occurs to me that I’ve done this before, only not with mugs. With people. With God. Most of my life has been filled with love, kindness, grace—ten million wondrous memories—but along the way I’ve also experienced a few shocking hurts and disappointments. Wounds I didn’t see coming, from places I’d never doubted.

Sometimes things break on us—not just mugs, but things that really matter: Health. Friendships. Finances. Churches. Parents. Marriages. Families.

Things we thought were a given, things we trusted without question—my mug will always hold my coffee, my friend will always be there, my church will always be a safe place, my parents will always love each other, my guy will always be faithful, my body will always be healthysuddenly let us down. They break without warning. One minute we’re sitting on a couch with a friend—happy place, familiar comfort—the next we’re gasping in pain, world spinning, and it’s ages before we can even register what happened.

When we’re surprised like that, when things break on us, sometimes we break too. Trust, overcome by fear. Love, overshadowed by suspicion. Openness, overwhelmed by hurt.

We don’t want to be broken. We’re not doing it on purpose. Logically, we tell ourselves that our newfound fear makes no sense—in neutral moments we even laugh at ourselves—but every time we face situations that somehow remind us of that one terrible time, the fear comes roaring to the surface. Taking over. Commandeering our thoughts, our feelings, our reactions. Making us curl into a self-protective cocoon where we can hide safe inside, safe all alone.

mug-winter-girl

Fear does this to us even when we are no longer in any real danger—it takes over based on mere memory. We may be sitting safe and snug—different chair, different day, different mug—but if our mind flashes back to the one bad experience with the one evil mug, suddenly we’re right back there, in danger, and it’s time to flee. Or time to fight.

We who used to live free, love hard… we become guarded. Protective. Isolated. Maybe angry.

We’re not crazy, not making it up. Some broken things, like my friend’s mug, are beyond hope and have to be thrown away—those losses hurt beyond words.

Other broken things can be repaired, but repair is scary. Imperfect. Risky. Even if we manage to glue the handle back onto a mug, we still see a seam. A scar. A weak place that, if we prod it and test it too much, we fear could break again.

Friend, if things or people have broken on you, if you yourself are broken, these words are for you. You feel pain, suspicion, fear—so do I. I’ve felt it in my own ways, through the lens of my own experiences, my own people. I understand the deep, visceral spring of pain that gives fear such ferocity, such control, such long life.

I understand it, but from one burned person to another, one broken soul to another, I’m asking you to let it go. I’m telling you that with God, through Christ, it’s possible.

I’m asking you to take away the power of fear—fear that warps and cripples and binds—by seeing through it. By seeing it for what it is: a fear that wants to distort the way you view people, do church, trust God, experience life, face the future. It is a hurt that wants to haunt you. An injury that seeks to change you. A wound that wants to keep wounding you—not with realities from the present, but with memories from the past. A fear that wants you to live trapped in an invisible box of your own creation. The wounds may have come from others, but the box you built and locked yourself—and friend, you still hold the key.

I’m asking you to use that key. Climb out of that box. Stand free in God’s sun.

I pray you find a way to heal. To forgive, as many times as it takes. To give your hurt and fear to God, and to trust that his hands are big enough to hold them. That Christ’s blood is thick enough, pure enough, to cover all and wash it clean.

I pray you find courage to breathe through the panic, reject the memories, reach out your hand, and take hold of that mug once more. To lift it up and drink it down.

I’m proud to say I have learned to trust mugs again. (Now there’s a sentence that’s never been said before!) It helped when I realized: Sometimes memory distorts reality. Inflates horror. Exaggerates pain. Over time, my memory of the heat and pain became more powerful, more dramatic, than the actual incident itself. Yes, for a few seconds I was uncomfortable, but I wasn’t truly burned! The cuts were mere scratches! Some experiences truly are as awful as we remember, but other memories grow over time—taking on heavier weight, accruing pain like interest.

Either way, isn’t it time to reach out and hold that handle again? The first few times will be the hardest. You might find your heart racing, palms sweating, head spinning. But with time it will get easier. And easier. Still easier. The more often you push through, the more quickly you will overcome. You may relapse every so often, but with focused effort you can keep moving forward. You can enjoy the things, the people, you used to enjoy. You can trust again. Love again. Live again. Yes, you may bear scars, but they need not define you.

My two-hand mug-holding habit took a while to unlearn, but over time, I have. (Mostly.) I now hold mugs with one hand, by the handle, the way normal, non-mug-ophobic people do, and most days I don’t think twice about it. (Although honestly, now that I’m writing this, I’m starting to feel a bit twitchy. Don’t judge me if you catch me relapsing with the two-hand hold for a few weeks.)

et-mugshot-1

et-mugshot-2

et-mugshot-3

Now I’m grateful for the lessons the broken mug taught me:

Most of the time, life is wonderful. But sometimes life hurts. People disappoint. Things change. Mugs break.

But you and I… we can move forward. With God’s help, we can heal. Forgive. In time, maybe we can even forget.

And you know what? Even if we can’t forget, even if we still bear the scar, it’s worth it, reaching out and taking hold of that mug once more. Scar or no scar, bad memories and all, the tea, the coffee, this life… they taste as good as ever.


If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy:

When They Can’t Find a Heartbeat

When Being a Grown-Up Means You’re Still Growing Up

When You Walk Through a Valley

When Life Poops on Your Party

On Pinkeye, Lice, and Love

One Day, Somehow (A Promise for a Grieving Friend)


Share this post with a friend who needs it (and is scared of mugs like me, because I don’t want to be the only one): 


When You Walk Through a Valley


When You Walk Through a Valley

Images courtesy of Pixabay

Who doesn’t love Psalm 23? For three verses it’s all smiles and peace, all dancing through flowers.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

   He makes me lie down in green pastures,

He leads me beside quiet waters, 

   He restores my soul. 

He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

We read this and we’re like, Woohoo! Christianity means I get to be happy, happy all the time! “Green pastures, quiet waters, restored soul”? Sign me up! “He guides me in paths of righteousness”? Yes please!

But then we hit verse four, and our happy dance skips a beat: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil.” Wait, what? Valleys and shadows and evil? That doesn’t sound very Psalm 23-ish. I don’t feel like dancing anymore.

We back up and read verse four again.

            Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…

Yep, we read it right. What’s Death Valley doing in the middle of Happy Land?

How does this:

when life is hard for Christians

turn into this:

barren-field-mountain-view

???

If the Good Shepherd Himself is leading us on paths of righteousness, how can we end up in the valley of the shadow of death—the dark place where evil lives? Did God’s GPS stop working? Did he abandon us mid-journey? Confused, we are tempted to hurry past verse four, eager to get to the “my cup overflows” part at the end.

But let’s pause here for a minute. Let’s take a good hard look at the phrasing, the way verse three leads into verse four (I’m using the NIV, 1984):

He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.

So we start out in verse three with God leading us. We’re cavorting down paths of righteousness. Life is good! We’re godly and happy! And then something goes wrong…or does it?

Notice that the psalm writer, David, doesn’t say, “And then we wander off the path and abandon God’s righteous ways, and that’s how we end up in the valley of the shadow of death, being punished for our sins.” No—one minute we’re following our loving Shepherd down paths of righteousness; the next we’re in the valley of the shadow of death.

Do you get what this means? Sometimes God’s righteous paths take us to the dark places. Sometimes God Himself leads us into the valley. We’re still on the path, still being righteous, still in the loving care of the Shepherd, but His righteous path is leading us where we don’t want to go—so close to death we feel its shadow.

It’s big, the valley of the shadow of death. Mile after mile of barren wilderness. The path through stretches long—no shortcuts across. The path of righteousness may wander around dark lands for days, weeks, months—even years.

Perhaps you’ve walked those dim paths before. Perhaps you’re walking them now. It goes something like this:

You’re graduating from college, faithful to God. It should be the best time in your life—the future stretching wide, so many options—but you? You have no plan. Not only are you jobless and date-less, you’re also directionless. Everyone else has a Great Life Plan—how they love revealing those plans in epic social media announcements—but you? You just feel lost. Lost and alone.

You’re sad. Endlessly sad. You don’t know why, and you can’t pull out. You pray, you work on yourself, you try to get help, but the sadness remains.

Your biological clock is sending off insistent daily alarms—BABY TIME BABY TIME BABY TIME—but every month, your own body betrays you.

Or maybe you have a family, but your family is struggling. You’ve tried to instill faith in your kids, but they’re fighting you, fighting God.

In times like this, fear rises. Confusion reigns. You start doubting God, doubting yourself: What did I do wrong? Is God mad at me? Does this suffering mean I’m being punished? Did I accidentally wander off the path of righteousness?

Psalm 23 says no. God says no.

There is more to Christianity—and life—than quiet naps by gentle streams. There’s deep comfort for dark times. Living under our Shepherd’s protection and care doesn’t mean we will never wait, never suffer, never experience disappointment, decay, or delay. God doesn’t promise us an escape from hardship; He promises to guide and protect us as we go through hardship, all the way to the other side. No matter how dark the path. No matter how long the journey. That’s the real message of Psalm 23.

 

The more I think about this truth, the more beautiful this psalm becomes. Because who lives beside quiet waters all the time? Who experiences a life of constant peace and endless blessing? Not me! Sometimes I have, sometimes I do, but not always. Not today.

Psalm 23 doesn’t promise a life of never-ending peace and happiness; it promises strength and help and hope through all life’s ups and downs. We have a Shepherd who loves us and meets all our needs. He knows when we need rest, and He knows how to provide it. And when He leads us down into the valley, He does not leave us alone. His rod and staff—His presence—are there to comfort and guide us all along the way.

We may have times when we’re wandering, but we’re not wandering alone. We may have times when we’re sad, but we’re not sad alone. We may have times when we’re waiting, but we’re not waiting alone.

He is for us, He is with us, and if we will just keep to the righteous path, He will guide us all the way across the valley, however long it takes. Eventually, He will help us find our footing as the path climbs back up the mountainside. We may be out of breath when we reach the top, homesick and road-weary, but He’ll urge us to rest beside a bubbling mountain stream. He’ll ask if we’d like some water, and we’ll hold out our cup and say, “Yes please.”


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