“The Lord is my shepherd…. 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; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” (Psalm 23:1, 3b-5)
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:1-5)
On the heels of the great news in Psalm 23 about green pastures, still waters and restored souls, God reveals that His paths of righteousness will on occasion take us through valleys of darkness and the shadow of death.
The Lord first showed me this truth at the onset of my ministry, but with rare exception, the valleys in which I have walked over the last twenty-five years have been valleys in the lives of others. Through prayer, counseling, prison ministry, volunteer chaplaincy, mediation, and healing & deliverance ministry, God has given me (and often my wife Christie and me as a team) the opportunity to help others in their dark times.
Sometimes God worked wonders in these situations, and sometimes our efforts did not seem to accomplish very much. But it has always been an honor to serve the Lord by trying to serve people so willing to share their vulnerabilities with us. And through it all, Christie and I were also blessed with experiences of God’s manifest Presence, loving family and friends, a beautiful home, adequate finances, and good health.
On October 15, doctors diagnosed my beloved Christie with pancreatic cancer. The tumor had already spread to her small colon and surrounded some blood vessels, making surgery a non-option, as least for now. From a strictly medical standpoint, this is not good news. Christie and I are now walking through our own valley of the shadow of death.
We are only thirty days into this valley, with much yet to discover, but we have already learned a few important things I can share here.
First, we have learned not only that we must walk by faith and not fear, but that we can walk by faith and not fear. (2 Corinthians 5:7; 2 Timothy 1:7)
The Greek word translated as “suffering” in Romans 5:3-4 is most frequently translated as “tribulation”: something Jesus said we would all face in this broken world. (John 16:33) The Greek word translated as “character” literally means “testing” or “proof”. Paul is explaining here something Jesus taught in the parable of the sower. We find out how deep and genuine our faith is – our true character – when it is tested by tribulation. (Matthew 13:21)
The faith Christie and I have in the love, goodness, power and trustworthiness of God is unshaken. We do not rejoice that Christie suffers symptoms from this cancer and the chemotherapy she has started, but we continue to rejoice in the Lord of our salvation. (Habakkuk 3:18) He did not cause the cancer, but He will work it for good because we love the Lord who first loved us, and we are called, chosen and anointed according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28; Colossians 3:12; 1 John 2:20, 4:19)
The second thing Christie and I have learned, not for the first time but with a significantly increased depth of understanding, is the most important thing we must all know when we walk through the valley. We are not walking alone. The Lord is here with us every step of the way!
God proved His love for the world not just by the incredible gift of Jesus but by the equally incredible gift of His Holy Spirit, who lives inside Christie, right there with that trespassing cancer. We strongly believe the Lord is leading us on a path of healing, but whether it is a path of healing or a path to heaven, our hope of glory is the awesome and everlasting reality of “Christ in her”. (Colossians 1:27) This hope will never disappoint us.
The table our Lord prepares for us in this valley is already covered with precious prayers and expressions of love by countless family members, friends, and people we don’t even know. Our two wonderful daughters, Jen and Jes, have been amazing! Because God is with us in the valley, our cup is being filled with fresh wine, and it will overflow.
Christie Tweed “approves this message”. God bless you, and God bless our community.