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Light in the Valley of the Shadow of Death

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” - Psalm 23:4

Nobody said love was easy.  God loved the world so much that He gave His One and Only  Son (John 3:16).  He beckons us to love Him so much that we “take up our cross daily (Luke 9:23),” and die to ourselves in the same way (Romans 6:11).  My love for Jesus has brought me here.  Sometimes I feel encumbered by the weight of death.  Yet Jesus said, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:30)”

Sometimes, the burdens I carry do not feel light.  (The remainder of this paragraph may be hard to read for some, so feel free to skip it).  In the past month, as always, I have seen an immense amount of pathology including an 8 month old with biliary atresia (a fatal diagnosis), a newborn with trachesophageal fistula that developed an abscess in the lungs after surgery and died, a teenager with metastatic cancer located behind the heart causing hypercalcemia (now on palliation), two newborns with ruptured omphaloceles (one has died), a 30 week gestational age infant with likely duodenal atresia (deceased), two preteen boys with HIV-related encephalopathy (one is brain dead, the other one is deceased), a young man with severe aortic stenosis, three cases of horrific Wilms’ tumor with extensive metastases, a neonate with complete heart block, a neonate with birth asphyxia (deceased), a neonate with Apert’s syndrome, two children with X linked recessive hereditary ataxia, and a starving child with severe electrolyte abnormalities (deceased). This is just a small list of the patients I have seen suffer.  One day, I had the “death talk” with three parents. Another day, I told two parents that their children had cancer, and another parent that their adolescent had severe heart disease.

I literally walk through the valley of the shadow of death on a daily basis.  Yet the yoke of Jesus is easy.  His burden is light.  And God, through David, spoke truthfully: God is with me.  His rod and staff comfort me.  The key is to give to Jesus what is already His.  Jesus is carrying the load.  He loves the parents and children I care for more than I do.  They are His.  He is with Him.  He is sovereign. He is good.  He is trustworthy.  I do not have to be a savior; the Savior has already come. I can rest in the arms of a God who understands the pain of losing a child.  Through the loss and resurrection of His child, God has made all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ His children.  Further, He has defeated death.

The key to carrying the easy yoke is fixing our eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2).  We recently started a discipleship curriculum for our residents.  This week we discussed God’s love, and it reminded me of a time when I was wrestling with God.  As a freshman in college, I was struggling with survivor’s guilt and still trying to understand why the God I loved let me have cancer, and why children I loved died.  I was questioning everything I believed, and my faith was hanging by a thread.  I decided to read the Bible in a year.  It was one of the best decisions I ever made.

As I read the Scripture, God’s love became tangible, and even palpable.  I saw how God had been consistently loving and gracious throughout the entirety of the Bible.  When I got to Romans 8, it changed my life.

“He works all things for the good of those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:28, 37-39).”

With Jesus, we have already won at life.  His love is abundance.  His grace has made me rich.  His love is worth more than gold.  1 John resonated in my heart.

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!  And that is what we are! … This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.  If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?

Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth…Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.  Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.  This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 3:1a, 16-18; 1 John 4:7-10).”

As I am in the valley, Jesus is with me.  He loves me in the valley, and He is the key to escaping the valley.

As David wrote in Psalm 63:3, “Because your love is better than life, my lips will praise you.”  When we believe that the love of God is better than life, enjoy Him, and are satisfied in Him alone, God lifts us up from the valley and into His unshakeable kingdom (Hebrews 12:18-19).

It is hard for us to trust Jesus.  We want to be able to save ourselves.  We want to be exalted.  We want to be the savior.  We love control.  Through the process of sanctification, Jesus is teaching us that it is better for Him to be in control.  I hope to release these things to the One who owns them.  In this way, I can take on the easy yoke and light burden of Jesus.

Our burdens are His.  We are more than conquerors in Jesus Christ.  We have already won.  He conquered sin and death on the cross.  He is the Light in the Valley of the Shadow of Death.  He is our Hope and Joy.  Praise His Glorious Name.

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We are still looking for people interested in supporting us monthly.  So if you are interested, please feel free to email me at helmethan@gmail.com

Likewise, we are starting a fund for starving children.  If you are interested in giving to this fund, please email the email above as well.

Thank you!

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