Surrounded By Death
By Anthony Casperson
Well, we’re in it now. The holiday season is upon us. ‘Tis the season when depression, anxiety, and suicide rise. And that’s in a normal year.
In a year that, for many, contains the some of the worst experiences in our lives, this has probably been multiplied exponentially. Some have possibly just spent their first Thanksgiving away from their family. Many have found themselves recently in a second enforced lockdown. And though there’s been much talk about a vaccine, there doesn’t seem to be a quick and easy end in sight.
Loneliness has become the new norm. And in our cultivated compulsion to escape every negative experience as quickly and efficiently as possible, the only option of release seems to lead toward death. Either hazarding the infectious world, which many propagate is equivalent to spreading death, or actually performing the permanent act.
But, truthfully, death is not the only option even when it seems to abound around us.
The central point of Psalm 23 (both thematically and locationally) speaks to this truth. Verses 3b-4a read in the ESV: “He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”
My explanation/paraphrase of the words reads: “God (the Shepherd) guides me down the paths that are right with regard to his glorious name; even more so if the path I should walk is in the valley of death-like shadow (where shadows, darkness, and death abound). I will fear no evil/harmful/contemptible/unwholesome/inferior thing. Because you (God) are with me.”
(You can read more as to how I arrived at these words in the first couple of chapters in the book I wrote, Hydroponic Spirituality: Thriving in The Depths. [#notanadvertisement] But for now, I have a specific point with them.)
The path down which God leads his people is the right one. Each twist and turn in our lives has been plotted by God to bring him glory and grow us to be more like him. This includes, and is expressly proven, when we are in The Depths of Darkness where we feel alone and surrounded by death. In this place where death seems to be around every corner, we can continue to bring glory to God and grow to be more like him.
There is no reason to fear this darkness. No reason to seek escape from this God-led (and therefore righteous) path.
Here, where death sounds forth the lion’s roar or the siren’s call, we can find life.
And that’s because we who follow God are not alone. Never alone. The one who led us to this place hasn’t abandoned us. He hasn’t left us to our own devices. God remains with us to call us to follow him into life.
How do we overcome the death around us? It’s not by grasping for any and every option that will grant us escape. Rather, it’s by obediently following our Shepherd wherever he leads. He is the only option that leads to life.