Walking The Shadowlands

As I trudge along the damp dirt path, tendrils of smoke wisp out in front of me.  I squint as I walk, trying to see through the dark shadows that surround me.  On both sides of me, the high canyon walls cut off the light; above me, a thick canopy of leaves keeps the sky hidden from my sight.

I have been traveling through this valley for some time.  I didn’t enter it by choice, and likely wouldn’t have chosen it; the path I follow brought me here.

There are others walking this same path.  At times, we meet one another; occasionally, we will walk the path together, at least for a while.  Other times, we will spot one another from a distance.  Some of us help one another on this journey; some avoid all help and all contact with others, preferring solitude.

Yeshua, my guide, has assured me that I will not always be in this valley.  He is always with me, although I cannot always see Him.  Nor can I always hear Him.  But as long as I keep my mind on Him, my eyes on Him when I can see Him, and my ears tuned to Him when He speaks, I am not afraid.  Even in this, the darkest of valleys.

dsc-6192

I live in the Shadowlands.  All of us do, actually.  Despite the name, all is not dark in this world, because Elyon created this world.  And when He created it, He created it full of light and beauty and adventure and mystery.  And he pronounced it good.  He poured all of His love into this creation.  Back then, it was known as Eden, not as the Shadowlands.

That came later, after the Cataclysm.  After the Man and the Woman choose to listen to the dark whisperings of the serpent rather than the true words of Elyon.  They reached for knowledge rather than intimacy, not understanding that relationship with Elyon would have opened the door to true knowledge.  In that moment, with that choice, they broke what Elyon had created as good.

Since then, I am told, this good world has changed dramatically.

It is still filled with light and beauty and adventure and mystery. 

But the light – the light does not shine as brightly as it did in the beginning.  The colors are muted; the beauty has been marred.  There is adventure and mystery, but there is great danger – the serpent and his cohorts roam the Shadowlands, seeking to destroy and devour the sons and daughters of Elyon.  And sadly, they often succeed.  Many choose to listen to the whisperings of the serpent.  Many choose to blaze their own trail, not understanding that in reality, they are deceived and only follow the serpent’s trail.

After the Cataclysm, millennia later, Elyon sent Yeshua, His Firstborn, to rescue us.  It’s a long story – perhaps I will tell more of it another time.  Yeshua came to the Shadowlands and with His own blood, blazed a trail through the Shadowlands.  He has told all of us who follow Him that He will lead us along this trail – to Elyon.  To Home.

That’s where I’m heading.  That’s where many of my friends and family are heading – Home to Elyon.

It’s a long journey.  There are times it’s very difficult; times the path is hard to see.  Times too, though, of great joy and bountiful blessing.  And there are times like this – times when we walk through the darkest of valleys.

But valleys are not forever, and shadows are cast only because something tries to hide Elyon’s light from us.  And nothing can hide Elyon’s light completely – not even the final valley that I’ve heard is at the end of this journey.  That valley is called the Shadow of Death.  I’m not sure where it is, but I think it is a long ways off from here.  The thing is, I’m learning to trust Yeshua in this valley, as I have in other valleys that He has brought me through. 

And if He can get me through this valley, I know He will get me through whatever other valley I might face.

He can do the same for you.

Remember – these Shadowlands are wonderful and terrible and wild and beautiful and mysterious.  But they are only a shadow of what Elyon has for us – what we will one day see with our own eyes.

Home.

Little Things

Last week was a stressful week.

I found out that I definitely had to have my the first real surgery of my life.  Jewel had some major breathing issues that we thought were clearing up but that intensified some over the weekend.  I had to deal with a few difficult phone calls and issues that were stressful for me.  I had to deal with some questions for which I had no answers.  There were other things None of them were earth-shattering, and for some people, it all may seem like no big deal.  In some ways, it wasn’t.  But it felt like junk was accumulating, and it was stressful.

I got up this morning, excited to preach, but feeling the effects of the ongoing energy drain I’ve been experiencing.  I knew today would be full, and it would be a good but tiring start to another stressful and very busy week.

Right after the service, an older gentleman whom I’ve know for several years – a visitor from another state – came up to me and asked about my surgery.  We know one another, but we’re not close.  But he took the time to ask about me, to encourage me, to ask what time my surgery would be so he could pray for me.  Another out-of-town friend, someone I knew much better and had spent more time with, had a similar conversation with me.

I walked away from those conversations thinking about how their taking just a few moments to talk with me left me feeling so encouraged and cared-for.

And it got me thinking:  neither one of those conversations was necessarily a “big thing” – but they meant a lot.  I started to think about other “little things” that had happened recently that I had to be thankful for:

  • A simple conversation on Saturday night with a good friend about the Penguins that helped take my mind off of surgery and related concerns.
  • Another close friend who offered to spend part of a day with me this week to just have some fun together.
  • A couple of friends who texted me with encouraging scripture last week on the day I met with the surgeon.
  • An elder who prayed for me this morning.
  • A couple of friends who want to kayak this week before surgery.

I could list a lot more.  And as I think about it, these are my friends…I haven’t even mentioned how blessed I am by my family.

(I know, I’ve talked a lot about “surgery” in this post.  But have you heard the saying “when it’s you, it’s minor surgery; when it’s me, it’s major surgery”???? I understand that a lot better now!)

So all that to say I am thankful.  I have so much for which to be thankful.  So much more to give thanks for than to be stressed about.

Little things can really be big things.  They can help make a huge difference to someone without you realizing it at the time.  A little thing that you do can make a huge difference to someone else’s attitude – can bless them in ways you don’t realize.

What “little thing” might God ask you to do today for someone else?


If you’re interested in learning more about following Jesus, check out my new devotional book, Forty Days of Walking With Jesus:  A Devotional Guide, now available on the Kindle Store.  The paperback version is NOW AVAILABLE for $6.99 plus postage!  For ordering information, contact me at don@donwhunter.com

Why, God?

That’s the question most of us go to when trials come in our lives.  Why, God?  Why is this happening?  Why is this happening to me?  Why aren’t you rescuing me?  Why is this taking so long?

It seems like a natural question to ask.  When we are in pain, we want to know that there’s a reason for it, we want to know that there’s an end in sight, and we want to know that God hasn’t forgotten us.

{To address those questions briefly: 

  • There is always a reason for it, but not always a good reason.  Sometimes the reasons can include things like:  we live in a sin-broken world; we’ve made poor or even dumb choices; other people have made stupid choices; or our bodies are affected in ways we don’t understand by all the chemicals we ingest in eating preservatives in our foods.
  • There is always an end in sight.  Until we reach heaven, everything we live through – good or bad – is for a season.  Things will not always be what they are.  They may be better or worse, but change is a constant in life.
  • God has never forgotten us.  He promises that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5), that He will never forget us (Isaiah 49:15), and that He has engraved us on the palms of His hands (Isaiah 49:16).}

But there’s a problem:  God rarely – and by rarely, I mean almost NEVER – tells us why.

why

As I’m preparing for a Soul Care class that we’re putting on at our church, I’m reviewing some DVD teaching on the subject by Dr. Rob Reimer and Dr. Martin Sanders.  In one of the sessions, Dr. Reimer spends some time talking about this – that God rarely tells us why.  And then he goes on to share that in his life, he has stopped asking why.  Instead, he now asks God “how” – “how are you going to use this in my life?”

That’s really the issue.  How will God use this to surface inner issues that I need to deal with?  How will God use this to make me more like Jesus?  How will God use this to grow me, to transform me, to equip me for His Kingdom’s work?

So that’s one of the questions I’m trying to journal through and process now myself.  Not “why, God?”  But “how, God?”  Because I know that He didn’t cause this, but He WILL use it, and He WILL bring about good through it.

I want to encourage you to do the same.  If you’re suffering; if you’re feeling alone; if you’re feeling abandoned by God; if you’re wondering where God is; if you’re dealing with questions and feel God is silent – consider asking God “how” instead of “why.”

Last night, I had my monthly opportunity to hang out with two of my best friends, guys that feed me and bless me and can ask me any question that they think I need to work through.  One of them reminded me that God is at work, and that I need to press in to Him right now.  And he reminded me of these important words, which I will close with for your consideration:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  (James 1:2-4, NIV)


If you’re interested in learning more about following Jesus, check out my new devotional book, Forty Days of Walking With Jesus:  A Devotional Guide, now available on the Kindle Store.  Paperback copies will soon be available for purchase.