Wait with hope. Hope now; hope always! Psalm 131:3b the Message
Hope is only present when things are lost. Or stolen. Like a brother’s life, a mother’s memory of her children, dreams that will never be realized.
This is where hope is found, in the valley of the shadow of death.
One of my closest friends lay dying in a hospital bed brought into her home. Hospice nurses had been monitoring the morphine to ease the pain from the cancer that was winning its fight. We’d been called to come, a small group of us, friends who’d been living life together, raising our babies together, going on vacations and hosting holiday parties. We were the core group at our church and she had been the youth leader for several years.
The time was getting close, the nurses know this. One of our former pastors had been called and word was sent out for us to gather, once more, and we did.
We came from out of town and out of state and we each had a moment at her side. Even though we heard soft moans coming from her she didn’t seem aware of our presence. I didn’t know what to say to this woman I considered one of my closest friends. Nothing would seem enough. I should have said them in better times but we don’t. We don’t blurt out things like, “I have such a good time when we get together.” You just don’t and then you stand next to her bed wishing you had.
So this pastor friend called us together, and in their family room where we’d shared more laughs than tears, he began reading the 23rd Psalm and he talked about this valley with the shadow of death.
I’d memorized that Psalm as a child like so many of us had. It’s words were comforting but the shadow part never seemed to fit for me. Right in the middle of all these good things was this somber part about death.
Death was why we had gathered. The shadow of death was in the room, it was looming over us and we were awkward in our lack of understanding the gift of this moment. But he walked us through the verses, focusing on the hope that is with us and brighter than a shadow can ever be.
Shadows cannot overtake us. They have no substance, no life. Our Hope is Life, the life, our life.
It was her life we would celebrate and the eternal life we knew she would receive. This was our hope and hope was the light that would split through this shadow of death. Maybe not at this moment, when the reality of our friend taken so soon numbed us with shock and denial. The hope might not spread its rays through our grief just yet but we see the flicker. Like a pilot light on a gas stove, hope is always there.
Wait with hope. Hope now; hope always!
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