Walking in the Valley of the Shadow of Death

Walking with Jesus in the Valley of the Shadow of Death

A Trip Down Memory Lane – with Cassettes!

When I was a little girl, my family took a lot of car trips across the country. I always loved it when my grandparents would come along.

Grandma Elva and Grandpa Bud

My grandma was quite a character. She was full of pizzaz and seemingly endlessly childlike joy. Her short bleached blonde hair was usually covered by a tammie or bedazzled beret. If the bling wasn’t on her fingers, toes, or hat, it was on her embroidered jeans that she bought in the teen department.

My grandparents’ rich harmonies would fill the car as we sang the oldies from our cassette tapes of the 40s, 50s, and 60s. Woolly Boolly, the Twist, Rock Around the Clock. When we took a break from tapes, my grandma would rely on her Pennsylvania Dutch background and sing folk songs she knew. Songs about frying pans and babies eating fish like a man.

One of my favorite songs was There’s a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea. In the song things keep getting added to the hole in the bottom of the sea. “There’s a frog, on the knot, on the log, in the hole in the bottom of the sea.”

Repositioning, Again!

The song came to mind the other day as I was driving down the road on one of the many trips I took last week from my Zanesville apartment to my new residence in Junction City, OH.

Here’s a little background. I moved to Zanesville six months ago. It was an essential part of my journey of faith. I fully let go of the old plan and my house and embraced the new path God had me on.

It wasn’t an easy transition. In fact these past six months have been a true dark night of the soul as I struggled with depression (an old foe) and anxiety.

You know that point when you don’t think it could possibly get any worse? Well I was there in May. And guess what? It did. It got worse. But I have a cool story about God’s mercy and provision to tell you if you hang with me.

The Ravine in the Valley

Let’s get back to the song. There I was, in the car last week, thinking about the 23rd Psalm, particularly the part about walking through the valley of the shadow of death. Suddenly, I thought…I am pretty sure there is a ravine at the bottom of the valley of the shadow of death. I’ve already been at the bottom of the valley, so clearly it goes deeper than I thought. I began to sing There’s a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea with new lyrics.

“There’s a ravine in the valley of the shadow of death.”

Subsequent verses included a combination of ever increasing deep chasms in the valley of the shadow of death.

“There’s a rift, in the fissure, in the canyon, in the gorge, in the gully, in the ravine, in the valley of the shadow of death.”

Catchy, right?!

Believe it or not, it put a pretty big smile on my face. Not only because my grandma would have enthusiastically thrown herself into the game of creating more verses, but also because I knew that no matter how deep I found myself in the crevasse in the valley of the shadow of death, Jesus was still there with me.

Even if I slipped deeper into the cracks at the bottom of the valley, I could hold tighter to Jesus’ hand.

The Body of Christ and Power of Prayer

I can honestly say that as I sat in the seemingly never ending depths of the valley, I could feel God’s strength, peace, and joy surrounding me. It made absolutely no sense from the outside!

Even now, in the midst of a fiery trial, I am able to laugh and sing with joy. Why? I’ve tried all the other available options under my own strength, including expending significant energy taking every thought captive. I have discovered that I was never meant to get out of the situation on my own power. Only Jesus can turn ashes into beauty and mourning into joy.

Understanding this has been freeing! When you are all out of options, but you are fully confident in God’s character of goodness to come rescue you, there’s nothing to do but trust and wait on Him with thanksgiving and praise.

Boy has God sent me provision! He sent it in the form of endless scriptures, worship songs, and prophecies to strengthen me. Friends texting, calling, inviting me to their gatherings, and holding my hand everyday as I contemplated hard decisions. My roommate literally let me cry on her shoulder…several times. Multiple pastors took time to meet with me and provide counsel. My family rallied around me and put out requests for prayer to their friends at church. My gratitude runs deep for each one who stormed heaven’s gates for me.

Prayer is powerful! As I walk a painful road, I know that there is only one reason I am still standing–the constant prayers of those who are interceding in the throne room on my behalf.

I am fully supported and lifted up by the community of believers around me. What a joy!

What’s Different?

In the past, I haven’t asked for help. In fact, before, when I was wounded in Christian community I cut myself off from all believers thinking that would protect me. (Spoiler alert – it didn’t.) This time, in the midst of crisis I allowed the Body of Christ to do what I couldn’t. This time I asked for help. And help came. Praise God for His faithfulness and care!

I am holding on to the promises of God with both fists right now. These two scriptures in Isaiah 43 and Philippians 3 keep showing up in my inbox, social media feed, and sermons. We are called to forget the former things and look to our future hope. Jesus is our path and river of life!

Newly Settled at the Family Farm

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

Isaiah 43:18-19

…But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:13-14

Despite the fact that my life looks different than I expected, I am pressing on in faith. I am fully confident that God’s not done, and He has good things in store. I’ve already received a downpayment of peace and joy. I am eagerly expecting Him to turn everything around for His glory. Watch Him do it!

I recently found a song by Brandon Lake called Fear is Not My Future that says it perfectly:

Let Him turn it in your favor
Watch Him work it for your good
He’s not done with what He’s started
He’s not done until it’s good
Hello peace, hello joy, hello love
Hello strength, hello hope, it’s a new horizon

Fear is not my future, Brandon Lake

Pressing On with Jesus

Are you in a season of the dark night of the soul? I want to encourage you, as a fellow believer who is in the fire right now, God is bigger than any situation you face. His plan for your life can not be derailed. He is with you at the bottom of the valley–no matter how deep the gully is that you find yourself in.

You might cry endless tears and have moments when you despair, but I want to encourage you to take the pain directly to Jesus. Let Him take the burden on His shoulders. We may never know why things happen, but we can look to the future and ask, “Jesus, what’s next?”

I look forward to the promise in Psalm 126:5-6 where we get to return from our weeping with songs of joy, carrying the blessings God has given us in exchange for our tears and heartbreak.

It’s coming, friend, and it’s here now as you lean into the community He has built around you.

Hold tight to the promise of 2 Samuel 22:20. He’s going to rescue you because He delights in you!

The view from my new kitchen 💜

4 thoughts on “Walking with Jesus in the Valley of the Shadow of Death”

  1. I am so happy for you. You are a wonderful writer and beautiful person inside and out. God bless you Leanna.
    Please pray for my husband Scott. He is in advanced stage of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). Finally diagnosed him. He doesn’t have very long.😢🙏🏻

    1. Oh Connie! I’m so sorry to hear the news about Scott! I am praying for sure, for him and for you. Thank you for sharing with me. I’ll pray that you feel Jesus holding tightly to your hand as you walk this season with Him. ♥️
      p.s. and thank you for the blessing! 😊

  2. Leanna, you are right where you need to be, in God’s hands. Thank you for your beautiful encouraging words.

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