Tag Archives: Despair

Are You In the Midst of Despair?

Here we sit on the eve of a New Year.  2017 is about to pass into the annuals of time and 2018 is about to arrive with all of its mystery, and fear, and excitement.  I don’t know what the New Year may hold for you, I don’t even know what the New Year holds for me.  But this is what I do know: GOD IS STILL IN CONTROL.  Praise Him!

I also know that it’s possible the New Year may hold despair for you and those you love.  But if this is the case then I invite you to consider the fact that: GOD IS STILL IN CONTROL!

I also invite you to consider the fact that perhaps your despair is not as deep or as life gripping as you might perceive.  Consider this: have you ever walked through the Valley of the Shadow of Death?  I mean the actual Valley of the Shadow of Death.  Have you ever found yourself there?  Before you answer that, lets consider where and what the Valley of the Shadow of Death actually is and where we might encounter it in our lives.

King David wrote in the 23 Psalms:

1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.  He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.  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.  Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”

The valley here (in verse 4) in not a happy place.  The depiction embodies a place of high mountain walls (that cast deep shadows) that are impossible to climb.  The valley is a place from which there is no escape.  It is a place where you feel trapped and vulnerable.  If you are a soldier, it is a place where your enemies are perched on the high ledges surrounding you waiting to rain down death and destruction upon you.  If you are a sheep, it is a place where the wolves roam the high ledges surrounding you waiting for the moment to pounce.  This makes it a place of fear and trepidation.  A place of never knowing when death and destruction are going to strike next.

There are shadows.  And not just any shadows, we are talking shadows that create a darkness like night.  If you were to look at Psalms 23:4 in the NIV, you would read “even though I walk through the darkest valley“.  Because the word shadows means an intense darkness.  The Englishman’s Concordance calls it “an intense darkness as night itself“.  So it is a valley like night, without any light.  It is a very dark place.  And even though the text does not say this, I would suspect that it is a cold place.  The lack of sunlight, being sheltered by the mountains, being at the bottom of those prepices, it must be cold there.

And finally, there is death.  You are in a valley that smells of death, it reeks of death, it reminds you of it everywhere you look.

The Valley of the Shadow of Death talked about in Psalms 23:4 is a place of fear and a place of NO HOPE.  It should probably have a sign at the entrance to it that reads” “ABANDON ALL HOPE YE WHO ENTER HERE”.

I’ve seen these signs on people’s doors before.  They think they are being funny (and it kind of is, if you think about it).  But they wouldn’t consider it very funny if they really did have to walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

It is a place of hopelessness and despair.  Complete hopelessness and despair,  Have you ever been there?  Completely and utterly without hope?  Few of us really have.  Sure, you may have your hard times, your trials and tribulations in life … but completely hopeless?  Probably not.  Most of us, the vast majority of us, always have at least some glimmer of hope in our situations.

This is a place of NO HOPE.  At all.  Whatsoever.  And yet the Psalmist writes: “I will fear no evil“.  The Psalmist IS NOT afraid.  Why?  Because King David had experienced the protection and the awesome power of the Rod and the Staff of the Lord.  And once you have experienced the power of God, not even a hopeless situation can sway you.  Once you understand the awesome power of God, you understand that it really doesn’t matter if he protects you or not.  What you understand is that God has the power to save, and if he chooses not to – HE IS STILL GOD.  That is the what the Psalmist understood and it freed him from the grip of fear.

The good news here is that few of us ever really do walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death.  I personally believe that it is a place reserved for Prophets to walk through.  I believe God does this on purpose in order to keep the Prophets humble (a very hard task when it comes to Prophets) and to ensure they remain empathetic with the people (a very hard thing for Prophets to do).

So you can probably rest assured today that even in the midst of your pain and suffering, you at least have not yet come to the place of NO HOPE where all is lost.

And if God can take the Prophet through the place of NO HOPE and utter despair, the actual Valley of the Shadow of Death, and the Prophet can walk through without any fear of evil and be comforted at the same time, how much easier is it for God to take you through your own hard times?

There Is No Honor In Death

I lost my cousin today.  The son of my dad’s brother,  and the youngest of two children, he was known to the family as Little John.  I suppose from some throwback to the Robin Hood character.  But not to me.  To me he was always Big Bad John.

John stood 6 foot 5 inches tall and for most of his adult life weighed more than 300 pounds.  He was younger than me, but he was a much bigger man than I ever have been.  Dad used to refer to him as the Gentle Bear.  John was intimidating in his size, but there was nothing at all intimidating about his heart.  John warmed up to everybody he came into contact with and was always looking for the good within people.  It is just the way he was.

John passed away at 0500 EST this morning peacefully in his sleep after a short battle with cancer.  I have always been the rebel in the family, not seeking out relationships or contacts.  But not so with John.  These last few months, and really for the last couple of years, John confided in me maybe a little more than the rest of the family.  Almost to the point where the rest of the family was asking me if I had heard from him and if I knew how he was doing.  Perhaps to some extent, John was more respectful of our relationship than I was.

Perhaps it was because I served in the U.S. Military and John never did and he always had such great respect for our Nation’s military.  Or perhaps he just cherished some of the moments we shared in our youth.  But whatever his reasons, Big Bad John wanted to share the last few months he had on this earth reminiscing with myself, his cousin.

I’ve stated this before, but I’ll take this opportunity to say it again, Death is the antithesis of Life.  Jesus Christ said that he came to earth that we might have Life (and have it abundantly) (John 6:39-41).  God gave all of humankind Life from the inception of creation.  Death is the sin curse upon the world and Satan uses it as a feeble attempt to rob God of his created family.  And thus Death and Life are at odds with each other.  One brings joy and happiness, and the other brings sorrow and pain.

I was at work when I got the call from my wife with the news that John had passed.  I must have been visibly shaken because my coworkers asked if I was OK, and one asked if the phone call was bad news after I had hung up the phone.  Even though I knew it was coming, and even though the family expected it at any time, the moment of the news was a point that shattered my soul.  Big Bad John was gone.  No longer may I take for granted his Skype calls or his IM chats, or the time that he wanted to share.  Those times are now past.  And the memories of those times are all that remain.

If your world view is Atheistic, then I am saddened for you all the more. The one thing that evolution cannot answer for you is the emptiness in your soul at the passing of a loved one, a family member, or even a friend.  There is no science that explains the inexplicable bond that all of humanity shares over the helplessness of Death.  Even though as a good atheist you should know that it is all without meaning and that we are all just cosmic particles drifting in the vastness of the universe, there is still, to varying degrees in all of us, that unnatural feeling of loss that Death brings.

If your world view is Agnostic, then you really should not care one way or the other at the loss of a life.  But the impact of Life and Death is still there and is still an unexplainable force that impacts us all.

However, if your world view is Theistic, as mine is, then you should understand that God is still in control and that His Great Plan is playing out on the world stage and just how privileged we are to be a part of it all.

Christians sometimes wonder why God allows Death in the world.  I believe that Christians shouldn’t wonder why God allows Death, but rather understand that God orchestrates Death.  God is the giver of Life and only He (and He alone) may take that Life away.  Consider the Life of Job.  When God asked Satan if he had considered his servant Job, and Satan accusingly challenged him on the blessing God had bestowed upon him, God allowed Satan free rein in Job’s Life but would not allow him to take Job’s Life (Job 1:1-12).  Because God, and God alone holds the keys to Life and Death.

We like to depict Death as the Grim Reaper, as some evil character coming to take Life away, but in reality, the Angel of Death works for God, not Satan.  And Satan has no more say over your Death than what God allows within His plan.

And thus, like Paul of Tarsus, we may proclaim, “Oh death where is thy sting, Oh grave where is thy victory?” (I Corinthians 15:54-56). Because the Theist, the Christian, has a great hope that this life is not meaningless, that there is order to it all, that there is a God who loves us and who has a Great Plan for His Honor and for His Glory and that we have the great privilege of being a part of that plan.

I know that I know that I know, that one day Big Bad John and I will swap stories once again.  I know this because Cousin John told me that he was at peace with his King and his Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.  And I know that God is now holding Cousin John in His great hands, safely awaiting that day when we will all be united once again as part of God’s great family.  Not for me, and not for Big Bad John, but for His (Jesus Christ’s) own Glory.

So Big Bad John, just know that in the meantime I will keep the faith, and as for me and my house, WE WILL SERVE THE LORD until that day that he either calls me home or He comes again to reunite all of His children in the ultimate culmination of this fantastic journey He has orchestrated for each and every one of us.

John Keith Orman: March 24, 1965 – March 31, 2016image