As I Walk Through the Valley of the Shadow of Death

skull-and-crossbones-77950_640Here is one way I know the old cliché that “Jesus is the answer” is true:

Every day, I stand in the living rooms of hurting families.

Some are in trailers or run-down complexes populated by tenants on public assistance. Some are in private estates, larger than I would ever dream of owning, equipped with high-tech security systems and lawn sprinklers on timers.

But they are all hurting.

Maybe their child has a serious emotional disorder, mental illness, or behavioral problems. Perhaps they’ve been victimized or abused. Or, perhaps, the family is experiencing poverty, substance abuse, divorce, domestic violence, unemployment, alcoholism, or a traumatic event. Maybe they’re experiencing all of that at one time.

And I am standing in their living room.

And they’re looking to me for help. And relief from their agonizing pain.

Sometimes there are other helpers with me and we discuss things afterward – leaning on our cars parked on streets or alleyways.

I’ve heard some tell me that, standing in those living rooms, their politics fails them. They thought that politics was the answer but in that living room, they realize it’s not. No legislator, no politician, no lawyer will come to that living room with an answer that heals.

I’ve heard others with lots of letters after their names say that standing in those living rooms, their education and training fails them. They walked in, thinking they knew something, but now they’re considering learning a trade.

Often, their education or training would tell them that statistically, this child or this parent has no hope. But even those hardened by years of living rooms can’t look into the face of a ten-year-old and say, “You’re hopeless.” They know they can’t walk away, so how do they explain that to themselves? They want to hope, but their education argues against their humanity.

Others have put their faith in pharmaceuticals, philosophies, the legal system, and social service. But looking into the face of a hurting parent or a lost child, they suddenly see the holes in their virtual matrix. There is only so much a judge can order; only so much a pill can affect, and even a change of address and caretakers isn’t always the way to wholeness.

I struggle along with my co-helpers as we lean against those cars but one thing I can say is that Jesus doesn’t fail me in those living rooms.

Seeing the world through His eyes, understanding human beings, their capacity for sin, our fallen state, the reality of a spiritual realm, and the possibility of hope and healing through repentance and salvation, puts these living rooms in a context that gives me solid footing and sanity amidst amazing pain.

Walking into those living rooms with Jesus, I also walk in with power. I pray for these hurting ones. I pray walking in and often I pray (silently) in the midst of crisis. I’m confident that I never walk in alone and often other helpers (knowing I have fewer letters after my name) ask me, “How did you know to do that, to ask that, or to see that thing that suddenly made a difference?”

Jesus.

My faith never fails me in these living rooms.

Jesus never fails me.

That doesn’t mean every situation gets healed or works out the way I want. That doesn’t mean I pray away the mental illness or the years of family dysfunction. People have to choose Jesus for themselves and many of them don’t.

But it does mean I always stand in those living rooms with hope. Real hope. And I know there is value in entering their suffering, knowing that Jesus will help me sort it out and will comfort me when their suffering is too much to bear.

I know I am where I am supposed to be because Jesus would be in those living rooms.

So, even when I don’t have an immediate solution, I don’t despair. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, because He is with me.”

I can be present with these families, really listening, truly caring with a compassion that is beyond my own capacity for compassion because Jesus is with me.

I can say hard things because Jesus is with me. I don’t quote scripture to them but my understanding of their situation is informed by Biblical truth. Even if they don’t do what I advise, even those in the most difficult conditions have said to me, “I know what you’re telling me is true.”

Jesus never fails.

God is love and love never fails.

I work for a non-religious organization so I don’t bring religion to these families.

But I walk into every living room with Jesus and even though I’m not bringing in a tract, or a Bible, or wearing a Jesus-T-shirt, Jesus is there.

These living rooms do not erode my faith, they are evidence that it is true.

Writers are supposed to avoid clichés but today I have to say that every day these living rooms remind me that one cliché is true.

Jesus is the answer.

I know many of you readers have also stood in these living rooms or have worked with hurting people in other capacities. Take a minute today to testify to the presence of Jesus with you in those times and the power of Him walking with you through the valley of the shadow of death.


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7 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. I have seen Jesus’ love shared with young people at English Camps in Germany this past week- have their lives transformed- and the healing has begun! Praising God with you for this Truth!

  2. Lori, as usual, your posts are compelling to the point of leaving me speechless. Just now I know of 2 families who are believers and who are in the hopeless moments of life with troubled children. Praying that your words will be a balm to their souls.

  3. Joanne Sher says:

    Thank the Lord for what you do – for Who you bring into those living rooms. Wow.

  4. Praising God for the work He’s doing through all of you, as well. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. It means more to me than you know.

  5. sheri says:

    Lori, my empathy is with you as you walk through the valley of the shadow each time your foot hits the door sill of each living room. My heart aches with yours each time you look deeply into the eyes of that scared ten year old. My eyes weep as you share the pain of human life in the trenches. I thank God that He has sent you to places you would have never gone with your job. My prayer for you is that God will keep your physical body strong, your emotional health stable, your spiritual life ever in tune with Jesus along with an insight & wisdom that comes only from God. <3

  6. My prayers are with you. He is always able, we must simply be willing. Evidently you are and I admire you for that, because it is not as simple as it sounds. Being in the Will of God, means overcoming self will and sometimes that is hard to do. Later, Turtle <><

  7. It sounds as though you must be a social worker or a home health nurse. I worked in home health for several years. This post brought back a lot of memories. Thanks for being faithful and for ministering to folks in the midst of their pain.