Even when I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
protect and comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)
When I was a child, I was deathly afraid of the dark. The kind of afraid that causes your pulse and your mind to race and, as a kid, to pull the covers up over your head before you go to sleep even though you can’t breathe as well under the bulky layers. Throughout those growing up years, I often squeezed my eyes shut and laid perfectly still, afraid to move for fear of attracting whatever unseen frights to my side.
I’d like to say that this fear was only a childhood one. But, honestly, it haunted me for many years and I slept with both a radio and a nightlight well into my 20s. I lived alone in a one-bedroom apartment in the middle of Boston and the thing that tended to scare me more than anything was the dark. I was more afraid of what I couldn’t see and what might be lurking in the darkness than what I could see walking home from the subway.
And, actually, one of my most paralyzing experiences with the darkness took place after I was married; I was in my middle 30s and my husband and I were living in Cincinnati. He had fallen asleep and as I lay in the dark I was convinced that something was lurking near. My breath came in shallow, short bursts and I squeezed my eyes as tightly closed as I could. My every muscle was tense and I could barely whisper my husband’s name, afraid to admit my fear lest whatever was there use that to its advantage.
This went on for several nights, me burrowed deeply under the covers and my eyes shut and fear enveloping me. Finally one night my husband suggested we take some serious prayer action. He suggested it felt so real because it very well could be: a looming elevated fear courtesy of the evil one and spiritual warfare.
The thought frightened me only for a moment.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12)
It frightened me only until I turned my focus away from the fear and toward Jesus. My husband prayed powerful prayers in the name of Jesus and sent the enemy and his minions packing by speaking the name of Jesus and calling on the Spirit to do battle on our behalf.
That was a turning point for me.
Darkness still lurks and the enemy still prowls around.
Fear still creeps in on the shadows.
But no more am I a passive victim to my fear or to the darkness.
I did not grow up having a real relationship with Jesus. I did not grow up with examples of faith or how to live that out. After college, I began inching my way toward Him, but it was almost all about my head and little about my heart.
It took a small group of community and an awesome church and personal encounters with Jesus before my heart split open and Jesus found a home with me.
Those nights in Cincinnati were one of the longest and darkest valleys for me. They were leading me to the Shepherd and the enemy was doing his best to stop me. But the Good News whispered through the fear and the darkness: the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Jesus was there.
He’d always been there, waiting for me to see Him. And when my husband prayed, Jesus came in like a mighty warrior and filled that room and my heart with His presence and His peace and His light.
Yes, fear still creeps in on the shadows and the darkness still makes me tremble sometimes.
But I will not be afraid. No matter how dark the valley, I will not be afraid because I know that I no longer walk through the valley or this world alone.
Take that, fear.