I had never seen it–not before last week.
Not before a man rented a truck and drove down a busy bike path in New York, taking eight lives. Or before twenty-six lives were stolen amidst red carpet, church pews, and a wooden cross. Or before a man pulled a gun out in a Walmart checkout line and took three lives, this one close to my home, leaving me to wake up each hour of the night until they caught him.
I hadn’t seen it, for twenty-seven years as I read these verses from King David:
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death….”
I pictured him, that young king, carefully walking through a dim, shadow-covered valley, his enemies on the prowl. I couldn’t relate. That verse was for him. And maybe today, for those facing terrible illness, or fighting on the front lines of the war.
But then this week’s attacks littered my Facebook feed, and I realized it–we are in that valley. Each and every one of us. That shadow of death and chaos and fear hovers over us. It threatens to steal our joy, our security, our comfort, and our ability to live fully without fears of, “What if…?”
That valley of the shadow of death–it is this fallen world where cancer invades, children are sold, poverty has no answer, and satan uses a pawn to walk into a church and send bullets ricocheting between stained glass windows.
“I tremble.” That is what I told God this week in the wake of evil. Because what else is there to do?
We are afraid to walk into stores. To enter our places of worship. To attend a concert. We live afraid.
We see their faces, hear their stories, one, after another, after another–and then we turn and see our child. Our innocent children, growing up in this world they know little about.
I don’t want them to know.
Not yet. Not ever–but definitely not yet.
We tremble in sadness and shock and with pleas of “Lord Jesus–come.”
But we cannot tremble in fear.
Because then the enemy has already won.
After weeks like these, I am left with that deep, aching question: how do I move forward and raise my children in this world full of evil?
How do we, as mothers and fathers called to love and nurture and protect these little ones, guard them from the harsh realities that we cannot control?
How do we claim peace in a world marked by unpredictable chaos?
We spoke of it in Bible study this morning. This Hebrew salutation laced in peace, tranquility, quietness, and rest. Shalom, holding the power to destroy the Authority of Chaos, the devil himself prowling throughout this world infecting it with evil, and trying his darnest to infect our own souls with fear.
I look back to that valley of the shadow of death, the one King David waded through–the one we navigate now. I glance back a few verses, the prelude before the valley: “He leads me beside quiet waters.”
Where, fellow parents, are these quiet waters within this valley? How do we cling to this promise in a world of chaos, when gunmen walk into churches?
Where are these quiet waters when our own life billows with uncertainty, fear, anxieties, or tragedy?
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16
Now is that time of need.
Lord, when we are tempted to fear, we need comfort. Peace. Rest. Assurance. Hope. Shalom.
We need to hear the gentle trickle of those quiet waters.
“Truly my soul finds rest in God;
my salvation comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.
Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
my hope comes from him.” Psalm 62:1-2, 5
Let us come boldly to the throne–where these promises await us. They are the quiet waters.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27
Friends, I look at my own babies just as you do yours this week, and I am asking the same questions. I am battling the same fears. And the only answer I have arrived at is this: Jesus must be enough. And He is. King David did not stay down there in that valley. He rejoiced in the goodness and lovingkindess of the Lord, which followed him all the days of his life–but only as he made this declaration, “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Only as he drew near to those quiet waters. Only as he claimed the promises God has waiting for us. Only as he turned his eyes away from the chaos pressing in around him, and found freedom in the hope we hold in Christ.
“Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27:14