“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil. You are with me.” Psalm 23:4
It was late afternoon. My wife Judy and I live on one of the main streets that run through our small city. We have a sidewalk and as you can imagine it is not unusual for all kinds of people to be walking by all the time. Sometimes there are families, loud and happy as they stroll and sometimes it just someone going somewhere. But then sometimes it is a someone like yesterday. Though not all the details were apparent…he wore chapter after chapter of his broken life story.
Life was hard…it was as clear as glass. He was shuffling along pushing an empty shopping cart. At first I thought he was an older man I see walking laps around our block. He pushes a walker and is bound and determined not to let age stop him. But this was not him. This man was older but not that old and life had not been kind. His clothes were wore and tattered. He would take a few steps and then stop and look around and then take a few more. He reminded me of someone I had seen at the park several months ago.
That particular day I was walking in the city park. It wasn’t a casual walk but the exercising kind. That day was like a lot of spring days—the sun was shining, the birds were singing, the trees were doing their “leafing out” thing and it was a good day. Then, I heard something…someone.
I was alone in the park till then. As I crossed the bridge on the North end of the park there was a man in his forties or fifties. He was dressed normally—whatever that means—but that was where normalcy ended. At first, I thought he had one of those things in his ear that enabled him to talk on his cell phone. The closer I got the more I could see and hear.
He was angry. He was shouting. He was cursing. Then he began to pick up rocks and throw them violently in one direction and then another. I realized he was fighting a battle with someone I could not see but he could. To him it was real–very real. He felt threatened and hurt by an enemy only he could see.
That day I prayed. I asked God to deliver him from the invisible demon that was haunting him. I asked God for His peace to come upon this peace-less man. Later I saw him leaving the park, less angry, less violent and no longer cursing. It seemed from where I was that a moment of calm had come to his storm wrecked mind. I was grateful and told God so.
I have thought about that day several times and it came to my mind again yesterday when this man covered with brokenness walked by my house. My verbalized thoughts were, “Oh, Lord, how hard his life must be. Help him…be with him” Soon, he had moved on and I was left alone with my own thoughts. You know, not all people with hard lives walk down streets pushing empty carts. Some are the people you and I pass in Walmart, or maybe it is the neighbor next door or perhaps the person you sit next to in church on Sunday.
The truth is there are a lot of folks fighting and fearful of enemies–enemies that don’t have or need a face to wreck lives. There’s still the COVID thing, the loss of a job or business, the fear of losing their marriage or someone they love, the fear that things will never be the same, the fear that this fear will own them–consume them.
My mind goes back to Psalm 23:4. David, chased by a crazed king consumed with jealousy, chased by too many memories of too many failures writes, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil. You are with me.” He was wise enough to know that as he walked through this valley it wasn’t filled with real monsters–only monster “wanna-be’s.”
You see, for him the valley became a roadway and not a residence. Death, or things that cause death, because of his faith in a “bigger-than-anything” God, was reduced to a shadow. Shadows can frighten but they can cause no real damage or harm. How did that happen? Well, somewhere along the way David chose to believe his God and he found peace. He said, “I don’t need to fear evil, no matter what it looks like, because You are with me.” You.Are.With.Me.
Today as you journey, remember all around us are people who fight battles with enemies only they can see. Be sure and swift not to judge but to pray. That day in the park and I guess to some degree yesterday, I got it right but trust me I don’t always do that. It’s then that I pray a different prayer–one for forgiveness. And if you are fighting those invisible enemies today–just a word or two. God loves you. Rest in Him. He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne