Are We Ready to Cross the Valley

Many great books have been written on the rise and fall of the Roman Empire.  Probably the most well-known is The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, by Edward Gibbon (1737-1794).  Gibbon was a militant agnostic for most of his life, but as he was nearing death he is quoted as saying, “All is now lost, finally, irrevocably lost.  All is dark and doubtful.”

As Thomas Hobbes, the great British political philosopher (also an agnostic), was nearing his death, it is recorded that he said, “If I had the whole world at my disposal, I would give it up to live one day.  I am about to take a leap into the dark.”

Sir Thomas Scott (1808-1878) was a free thinker who wrote over 200 books and pamphlets attacking Christianity.  Nearing his death, he said, “Until this moment I thought there was neither God nor a hell.  Now I know and feel that there are both, and I am doomed to perdition by the just judgment of the Almighty.”

Voltaire (1694-1778) a famous French author and nonbeliever was said to be a wealthy man.  Near death he said to his doctor, Dr. Fochin, “I am abandoned by God and man; I will give you half of what I am worth if you will give me six months of life.”  The doctor replied that it could not be done. Voltaire then said, “Then I will die and go to hell.”

These men are like many others who serve their own selfish designs through life, but when actually faced with the dark valley of death were horrified, not so much of death itself, but of its outcome.  It’s the thought of what comes after death that makes men tremble. But for many others, the sting of death has been taken away by the cross of Jesus, such that they can say with David, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil.”  (Psalm 23:4).

David could say this with confidence because the Lord was his Shepherd and had been throughout his life.  Unlike the idolatrous neighbors, and some among his own people, David chose the Lord as his hope and purpose for living, hence when he faced the dark valleys of life, and eventually the dark valley of death, he feared no evil outcome.

David said, “Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.”  The rod and the staff were instruments the shepherd used to protect his sheep.  As our Spiritual Shepherd, God uses and provides instruments and tools to protect His spiritual sheep.  What we have available to help us in the valleys of life are the same things David had: the word of God (Psalm 119: 50, 105), and prayer and trust in God’s providence through times of sickness, sorrow, physical need, and danger (Phil. 4:6; I Peter 5:7).  David alone did not kill the lion, the bear, and Goliath (I Sam. 17:35), but prayer and God’s providence did.

Just as God has been with us in this life, we must trust Him to escort us into the life to come.  Perhaps the greatest fear of death is the loneliness of it. When we die, we must die alone. Family may be present to give what comfort they can, bur their help is very limited.  When it reaches a certain point, they will fade from view and we must go the rest of the way alone. Alone, that is, unless the Lord has been our Shepherd through life. If we let the Lord guide us through time then He will be there with us when we pass into eternity.  David said, “For Thou are with me.” Having never gone through the valley before, I would hate to face it alone, wouldn’t you? I would much rather face it with One whom Himself has gone that way before and will be at our side to bring us safely through (Rom. 8:35-39).  Death doesn’t separate us from Christ; it only brings us closer.

Matthew Poppa