When the fireworks were going off on New Year’s Eve there was plenty of optimism for the year ahead. If 2019 was a difficult year then 2020 held promise for better things. The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown many of our plans for the year out the window. A year that held so much promise now appears to be a difficult year for almost everyone. Many will face health uncertainties, work issues, relationship dramas, financial challenges, cancelled plans and broken dreams as they navigate through 2020. Many are already saying wake me up when 2020 is over.
Some will find themselves in 2020 walking through the valley of the shadow of death that David refers to in Psalm chapter 23. The valley of the shadow of death isn’t a specific location rather it refers to a gloomy place; a place of great darkness and danger. It’s the kind of place nobody plans to visit.
If you have the unfortunate experience of having to visit the valley of the shadow of death, is there anything to do while you’re there? What can you do while facing dark and difficult days? Allow me to give you a guided tour of the many things you can do while visiting the valley of the shadow of death.
1. Be Vulnerable
Vulnerability doesn’t come naturally to many of us. We usually prefer to tell people that we are fine and things are going well. It’s in times of great trouble however we’re more likely to drop our guard and be real with others about our pain. Being vulnerable allows others into our lives to encourage and to journey with us. People usually don’t like being vulnerable but often appreciate the encouragement and support they receive when they are. There’s time to be vulnerable when walking through the valley of the shadow of death.
2. Be prayerful and restful
We are so often self-reliant; we so often try to solve our problems in our own strength. We lie awake at night formulating and devising a plan of action. We spring into action, working the phones, trying to manage what is beyond our control. When walking through death valley it’s important to recognize that we can’t control anything in life. We can’t control our work or our wealth; a financial crisis or work change could sweep it all away. We can’t control our relationships; we can’t control our spouse, our kids or our boss. We can’t even control our health. When walking through death valley turn to God in prayer. Give up trying to manage everything in your own strength and become God reliant. As you do you can become restful knowing that you’re not in control but you’re in the hands of a loving God who is.
3. Have perspective
If one part of your life is in trouble don’t neglect all the other parts. If your work is in dire straits, don’t neglect your family. You’ll still have your family long after you finish your association with your current employer. If your marriage is on the rocks, don’t add to your problems by neglecting your health. David says he walks through the valley of the shadow of death; he doesn’t live there. Don’t make your present struggle the sole focus of your entire life. It doesn’t deserve your entire attention.
4. Journal the journey
When you come out the other side of the valley of the shadow of death, you’ll have a testimony to share so take time to journal while you’re in a season of struggle. Journaling may help you to pray and to make sense of what you’re going through.
5. Be Hopeful
Christians acknowledge that we live in a sinful and broken world. Christians are not above suffering; we follow a savior who suffered greatly and unjustly. Christians remember there’s more to the story than our present situation. We look forward to a day when God is going to make all things new; even in the darkest of days there’s reason for hope.