The Valley of The Shadow

by Teresa West Carter

It was pitch dark as I followed the Lord down the hillside. I was terrified, so I grabbed hold of his garment. As we approached the bottom, the air felt icy cold around me. He asked, “Do you know where you are?”

 I said, “Yes. The valley of the shadow of death.”

 I could feel death all around me, close enough to brush my cheeks. The Lord place His hands on my shoulders and suddenly I could see. The sun was shining, birds were singing, flowers were blooming. It was beautiful.

“Death is always all around you. It is part of life while you are here. So, how you live your life, is about your perspective.” I gazed at all the beauty around me, and I began to understand.

“Perspective,” I echoed. “Yes,” he said as he turned to walk away. “You must learn to trust me with everything,” he paused, “even death.”

I had that vision a couple of months before my husband, best friend for 30 years and love of my life, passed from this life to the next after having fought a long and gruesome five-year battle with cancer. Psalm 23 was our go-to scripture, but I was having a hard time coming to terms with the valley of the shadow of death part. I could not agree with it. I feared it. I kept it at bay on his behalf with every ounce of faith I had in me . . . and then some.

I started this painting as an encouragement to him, or so I thought. It was his coming back to life – resurrection declaration, but it wasn’t meant to be. After he died, I felt that I too had died. I felt struck down on the battlefield, and I was bleeding out. How in the world did the Lord expect me to finish this life without my love, my best friend and partner in the trenches? We had been through so much together.

There is only one explanation for why I am still here in the fight: God held all my pieces together. Despite my pain, I felt His blanket of peace hold me tight as I wept. It took many months, but I finally decided to live and trust Him with all my tomorrows, come what may.

I stared at the painting for a year before I decided to pick up the paint brush again and finish it. Suddenly the graveclothes that were once a symbol of his battle were now a symbol of mine. The rose, which once represented his focus on beauty and healing and resurrection, became mine. We all have battles: loss, grief, heartache - but what we focus on becomes our truth.

Do we focus on the loss? Or can we choose instead to focus on the beauty that this life has to offer, along with the hope that we will be reunited with those we love again? Our hearts can and will mend. And most of all, we are outrageously loved by an enormous God who holds all our pieces together and works all things together for our good.

The Valley of The Shadow is an encouragement to focus on beauty, hope, and life in the midst of the shadow. There is a mighty God who loves us, who wrote our story before we ever came, and it is good.