Our #IKnowHim story today was submitted by Alli Miller, who experienced the goodness of God in the valley of the shadow of death. She shares her story today to encourage anyone that finds themselves in the valley or overcome by darkness. She reminds us to trust that God will make the darkness light, and turn the mountain that lies ahead into level ground because that is what HE promises, and that is exactly what she experienced.
No one expects to die on a Thursday. It was a surprise to me as well, but that’s a little too far ahead in the story. The beginning is an autumn day. The kind of day ripe for expectation as it was the start of the weekend. The weather forecast predicts nine inches of rain. Living in a state frequenting tropical storms and hurricanes, we could handle it. The rain began as expected. The unexpected part is that it kept raining. Sheets and sheets through the rest of the weekend. In a matter of days, that nine-inch forecast is met, then exceeded by an extra seventeen inches. A soggy Monday arrived, and it’s finally over. Over twenty-six inches of rain fell. Sixty thousand people displaced in a matter of three days. But death didn’t come for me then.
Floods are no respecter of persons or property. My house did not flood, so as soon as it was safe to begin cleanup, I was on it. The next few months my weekdays consisted of my regular day job, then after work, I’d be a part of a team picking up the pieces of someone’s life that had been swept up by the flood. Saturdays were all-day cleanup events with multiple teams spread out across three cities. There’s a delicate balance in caring for victims of flooding. It requires walking that line where you care for people, while simultaneously throwing out every material possession they own. The kind of things that help turn a house into a home. Trinkets and treasures that have memories attached to them. All needed dragging to the dump pile on the street. Helping sometimes hurts. But death didn’t come for me then either.
Two months into flood recovery, it’s a Sunday full of blue sky. My church routine begins with teaching the smallest children a Bible story. The story for the littles this week is of His faithfulness. How He is good all the time. No matter the fire or the flood, He is there, infinitely involved in our lives. The littles ask about Him. Nothing draws you closer to Jesus than having a seven-year-old innocently pose a question that stumps you. After the kid’s small group is over, it’s time to worship corporately. Sitting amongst my community, a wave of exhaustion rolls over me. I could barely keep my head up during the church service. I didn’t know it then, but that was the first physical indication He would lead me through the valley of the shadow of death.
Did you know your body naturally keeps viruses locked away in your spine? They rarely travel up your spinal cord. Unfortunately, weariness weakens your immune system. Your body can’t fight well when tired. What began as being extra sleepy on a Sunday night revealed itself in the form of a virus crossing my blood-brain barrier. Viruses don’t attack your brain; they eat it. This particular virus attacked sensory organs. I would go blind, losing sight in my right eye. My brain would swell, losing feeling in my hands and feet. Tests on top of tests in the ER and then after being admitted to the hospital. Once green eyes turned gray in the fight for survival. Apparently, the human body decides eye color isn’t a necessity when fighting a virus lodged in your brain stem. There are days I still don’t remember. The one night doctors told my family they couldn’t do anything else. Just see if I make it through the evening. My sister needing to answer the question of where to ship my body if this night ended in death. That next morning, waking up with new IVs and bruises not knowing what had happened. Sometimes the valley of the shadow of death looks like a hospital room in muted yellows.
“And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them.”
Isaiah is known as the “Evangelical Prophet.” He prophesies of the Messiah, His character, His death and His kingdom. This verse, like the majority of the book, is written with the intent to point the reader to Him. Death’s shadow, death itself, dies in the light of our Savior. The redemptive power of the cross reveals that my death is inconsequential. A virus may have ravaged my body, but death can do nothing to my soul. Death defeated is but an off-key echo fading in the wondrous overture that is His kingdom coming.
My story didn’t end that night in the hospital, but eventually, there will be a day when He directs me from this present world into His everlasting joy. And as a follower of Christ, your ending is the same as mine. It’s impossible to see past my pen and into your life. I do not know the valley He walks you through. But, oh, God is good even when our circumstances are not. He leads the blind in ways they do not know. He guides us down paths our feet have never thought to tread. He transforms dark to light. He levels craggy peaks. Our God does this. The Almighty does not abandon those who are His own.
Alli loves turning pages, learning more about our Living Hope, laugh lines, and serving in her local church body. Her heart is for encouraging others to taste and see God is breathtakingly good to and through them. Say hello at http://allimillerwrote.com or on social media @allimillerwrote.
Have you ever found yourself in a valley of some sort? What was it that got you through to the other side? We’d love to hear your answer in the comment section, and feel free to leave some encouragement for Alli!