"And tho I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil."
~ Psalm 23
This morning as I was getting ready to get on the road, I typed in the first address, and for a moment thought, "I'm entering the valley of the shadow of death."
Rarely do I let things like this effect me, but for some reason, I realized just how dark the valley may be for some.
While my role as a hospice chaplain is to journey with those who are dying, I'm also often asked where God is during the journey.
I supoose I could talk of sin, and the original humans who decided to make a choice one day to go against God's wishes, and since that time death has existed.
Perhaps I might consider stories of heaven, and promises that were shared by Jesus years ago that there will be a mansion with many rooms, and there will exist one for each of us.
But so often it's the 23rd Psalm that is requested. We read the words at funerals, at bedsides, and recite them to ourselves when we are distress.
For some reason today, as I looked at my calendar and began to pray for those I will see, I realized that each person has entered that valley, and understands what the shadow of death looks like.
Years ago I met Elie Wiesel, the author of several books, including "Night."
During the conversation at lunch with several seminary students and Wiesel, the topic of death and his experience of living in a Nazi Concentration Camp caused all of us to become silent as he spoke.
As he described life in the camp, the image of his daily encounter of the valley of the shadow of death became overwhelmingly dark.
It was as if God had poured God's entire presence into a single being, but Elie would be the first to recognize and point out that he, himself, was merely a man.
This morning I rememeber Wiesel asking us "Where do you see God when there is darkness and death?"
Wiesel would share images of what he saw daily while a prisoner.
It's a painful reflection of people starving in a concentration camp. An air raid prompts people living in the camp to attempt to get some food during the chaos.
A man, so weak, literally crawls to reach soup, only to be shot as he lifts himself to reach for the soup.
Later gallows are constructed and men are hung for attempting such things, and then a child, who is not heavy enough to break his neck when dropped. Instead he hangs, dangling, choking.
As onlookers gaze, the crowd watches and wonders, "Where is God?"
From within, Elie writes, “Where is He? Here He is — He is hanging here on this gallows. . . .”
God does not possess the ability not to be present. God is with each of us always. When we sin. When we express love as well as hate. What we live in darkness is as if pure light has filled the space.
Today as I prepare to leave and drive directly into someone's shadowed valley, I realize that we all are making that journey together. We are called to be the instruments of the living Christ that helps remove fear by being a positive reminder of hope, love and of peace.
We all have times where we may surrender to the consumption of fear and doubt.
We all may ask "Where is God?"
We are God's presence and it is important that we be that presence more than ever today....
Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2017
Rev. G. Todd Williams is the author of the book, "Remember Me When..." and is a former hospice chaplain and pastor.