The holidays, time with family around the fireplace, everyone’s favorite foods, and hopefully a little downtime to recover from another year, were coming. But Joan, a forty–seven-year- old business woman, was about to jump 14,500 feet above ground out of an airplane.
Both her parachute and reserve chute failed to open—not something she had ever prepared for or planned. Once Joan’s reserve parachute finally did open properly, it was too late. She landed—shattering the right side of her body and knocking loose the fillings in her teeth upon the traumatic force of impact.
The damage to her body was inestimable. Rushed to the hospital by ambulance, her life was in the balance. Her 115-pound body was unrecognizable. But something other than the two-week her two-week coma confounded medical professionals.
When Joan hit the ground, she landed on a massive colony of fire ants. Ironically, those stings—over 200 of them—may well have saved her life. Health professionals suspect the ant stings shocked her heart with the perfect amount of electricity to keep her alive—long enough for the paramedics to arrive, 1
When the Shadows Are Strong
In Psalm 23 “shadow of death,” tzalamut, literally translated is “deep darkness”. David was used to the stars. He was used to the shadows. He learned how to see when the light was dim, if present at all.
To the God-centered mind, shadows are always a clue that he is close, so close we are engulfed by him. The enemy is there in the valley—he certainly has a shadow, but we also know God is there. We are never commanded to fear the valley or our enemy in Scripture. Shadows aren’t to be feared. But we are commanded to fear God.
God is light in whom there is no shadow or turning (James 1:17). The shadow in the valley is indicative of the nearness of God even when death itself is close. If we focus on the shadow of our enemy, we will miss out on the feast prepared for us. It’s true.
David sees God at work. He audaciously declares I will fear no evil, for you are with me.
Your Story in Scripture
Years ago, I was sitting downstairs minding my business when I heard a banging noise coming from upstairs. I made my way upstairs and found my four-year-old daughter, Dallon, jumping on her princess Bible. After a few minutes of discreetly studying her cuteness, I stepped into her room.
“Sweetie, what are you doing?” I asked. “Oh, I just want to get into the Bible,” she said. “So I can be with Jesus.”
Sometimes what occurs to children is the most raw and honest reflection of what should occur to us.
During a season of time in Daniel’s life, the Babylonian army destroyed his city, leaders, and the temple. To surrounding nations, the God of Daniel was dead. Yahweh had gone missing and didn’t prevent the catastrophe where God’s people were murdered and displaced from their homeland.
Daniel had every reason to believe God left him, yet he trusted God and reminds us, “the people that do know their God shall be strong” (Dan. 11:32 KJV). Why didn’t God prevent it this time? That becomes less important when you read the story of Daniel and witness the mysterious fourth man in the fire. We don’t need to jump up and down on the Bible to get an indication of who God is, what he can do, or what he will do. There is a story written for each one of us by God’s divine hand.
Peace in the ValleyPeace has a habit of finding us in those places where we finally notice it has been absent.Click To Tweet
Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor, teaches us all that beyond the shadow is something—-more accurately, Someone— who is steady. His words show us that while he perceived the absence of God, God could still be trusted.
“I have not lost faith in God. I have moments of anger and protest. Sometimes I’ve been closer to him for that reason.”2
The peace of God is something our soul is famished for. Some of the most profound truths in Scripture are not immediately experienced: they are held closely. God’s peace is such.
In our world of changeable comforts, God is unshaken. Difficult seasons mold us, show us who we really are and where God’s best is found. Jesus remains the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8). The God who never changes doesn’t impulsively decide to do so.
When Joan plummeted to the earth on that horrific day, the small, stinging ants she couldn’t see became the bridge to her tomorrow. What was unseen brought back her life. The very circumstance we would all choose to avoid is the very thing Joan became grateful for.
Daniel came to a place where God was bigger than what he experienced. David, though prone to wander, came to the same place as he kept his heart aligned with who God is and what God does. He received comfort from God’s rod and staff. You and I can, too.
Seek God—come out of darkness into light (1 Pet. 2:9). There, in the light, abide in the secret place, dwell “in the shadow of the Almighty” (Ps. 91:1) and be kept under the “shadow of [his] wings” (17:8). No one regrets meeting God through Scripture.
Peace During the Holidays
During the holiday season, we need this message. While we all hope for times with family and friends and a new understanding of Christ’s incarnation, these times are often the darkest for those walking through the valley. We, just like Joan and Daniel, need to revisit the truths of God’s presence.
Isaiah 9:2 prophetically speaks of Christ’s arrival when he says, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned” (NIV). Earlier he states that “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14 NIV) in which Immanuel literally means God with us.
We celebrate the fruit of these two promises every Christmas: The hope that God is with us and that God is working.
1“Fire Ants Help a Near Dead Skydiver Survive a 14,500 Foot Fall from the Sky,” Skydiving.com, February 26, 2017
2Joseph Berger, “Man in the News; Witness to Evil: Eliezer Weisel,” New York Times, October 15, 1986
Adapted from Grace in the Valley. Copyright © 2018 Heath Adamson, published by Baker Publishing, used with permission, all rights reserved.
Heath Adamson, a sought-after speaker, advocate, and emerging author, was saved at age 17 out of a life steeped in drug abuse and the occult. He now serves at Convoy of Hope, a global nonprofit focused on God’s compassion and justice, and considers loving the poor and needy a privilege. Learn more about Heath at HeathAdamson.com