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God of Goodness and Mercy

"God of Goodness and Mercy"

Rachel Shipman

I’ve never been a fan of the dark. I’m 40 years old, and it feels a little silly, right? In my mind, darkness is unsettling. It makes the air around me feel heavier- almost like it takes more effort to move around in it. The steps that usually feel confident in the light are timid in the dark and more uncertain. I just don’t like it.

I remember one year at summer camp when I was a kid; we had a contest on what cabin could memorize Psalm 23. If every girl in my bunkhouse could recite it to our counselor, our cabin would win a prize. It was a Psalm that I was very familiar with but didn’t really like. It doesn’t feel right saying I don’t like a piece of God’s word, but verse 4… my young self thought felt a little scary. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”

The valley of the shadow of death. Darkness. That thing that makes me fearful and uneasy? And He has David- His beloved- go there? No, thank you.

In my mind, the valley looks like the scary woods you see in a cartoon… with dark purple skies, shadowed trees, ominous fog, and yellow eyes everywhere, ready to pounce. Why in the world would God want ME to walk through that!? And then tell me not to fear what’s ahead of me? Doesn’t he want the best for me? Get me to my mountaintop! Show me the sunshine!

But here is the thing-

Walking through the valley is a necessary part of life. The mountain is made of both peaks AND valleys. If it weren’t, then it wouldn’t be a mountain. Every day in the sun is followed by the darkness of night. If it didn’t, time wouldn’t move forward.

So, where does this put me and all the others who hate the dark? If it’s inevitable, then what do we do with those yellow eyes and spooky shadows?

I remember that goodness and mercy follow me (Psalm 23:6). He reminds us in the very same Psalm that I will never enter the valley of the shadow of death alone. My constant companions in this life are the Lord’s promise that his goodness is always running towards me and that mercy will always pick me up when I stumble through the dark.

I read a book years ago called Hinds Feet on High Places, and it’s a beautiful allegory of what the journey through the Valley of the Shadow of Death is like. It’s about a little girl named Much Afraid, who takes a hard and scary journey, but one that the Shepherd has asked her to take. She does not feel strong or brave, but she obeys.

She is looking at this path ahead of her that is looming and uninviting, and she is upset with the Shepherd. She says, “ You can’t mean it. You said if I would trust you, that you would bring me to High Places, and that path leads right away from them. It contradicts what you promised.” “No,” said the Shepherd, “it is not a contradiction, only postponement for the best to become possible.”

Even when life feels like it is taking us further down into the valley… when you feel like goodness and mercy have abandoned you, His promise is ALWAYS coming. He is ALWAYS with you.

Much Afraid says this:

“She had the feeling that somehow, in the very far-off places, perhaps even in far-off ages, there would be a meaning found to all sorrow and an answer too fair and wonderful to be as yet understood.”

Goodness and Mercy will follow all the days of my life,

Rachel Shipman

ARH Staff Writer

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