Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing devotions pulled from my book Living in the Shadow of Death: Learning to Thrive through Tragedy and Uncertainty. If you want to learn more about this book, scroll down or click here.
Walking with the Shadow of Death
The shadow of death. That phrase, taken from Psalm 23, carries so much with it. Fifteen days before finishing the manuscript for my book, Living in the Shadow of Death, my dad passed away. Nine days before I first penned the final words, I buried him with my mom, who died thirteen months before him. Even today, a little over three years later, I miss him terribly.
Those last months with Dad were a whirlwind where life came to a screeching halt. Four months prior to his death, I met my siblings at my dad’s house in Ohio to spend time together as a family and to see how he was adjusting to life without his wife of sixty years. Sixty years. He was okay, but we could tell that life alone was wearing on him. So we talked him into moving in with my family.
I came home and got to work.
Our oldest son moved out to share a house with his sister and make more room for Dad. We cleared out our son’s bedroom and one other room in the house so Dad could bring what he wanted to fill those two rooms. We installed a chair lift on our stairs and rearranged our kitchen to make things easier for him. And I cleared my calendar of everything non-essential for two months so we could all make the adjustment of him living with us.
After accomplishing all of that, my siblings, youngest son, and I descended on Dad’s house and began the moving process. Discarding things he didn’t want to move, packing things he did, preparing the house to go on the market to sell. After a week of hard work, the five of us caravanned down to my home in North Carolina. My brother had to return early the next morning to Ohio, but my sister stayed for a few days to help us unpack and settle.
And the reality of what life was going to look like set in.
By mid-afternoon that first day in North Carolina, we called an ambulance to take Dad to the emergency department.
Over the next three months, he visited the hospital more times than I want to remember. He entered a skilled nursing facility on Christmas Eve, and continued to flip between the nursing facility and the hospital. The full magnitude of his health concerns threatened to overwhelm us. But I wouldn’t trade those long, difficult months for anything.
Most of what you will read in the weeks ahead was written before Dad came to live with me. You’ll read stories of how the shadow of death inserted itself into my life in different ways over the years. In November 2018, he came back again and sat himself down at my kitchen table. Uninvited. Unwanted. Obtrusive. Ominous.
My enemy tried to steal. My family offered grace.
The apostle John records Jesus saying in John 10:10, The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. The shadow of death wanted to steal from me—steal precious moments with my father. He strived to kill the dreams I had of what life with Dad would look like, destroy my hope, and turn Dad into a burden.
I won’t deny that I got tired. At times, I battled the futility of it all, wondering what we were truly accomplishing. But I refused to let the shadow win. I determined to spend time with Dad. I resolved to enjoy the moments we had, even if they didn’t look like I’d pictured before the move.
My family joined me, giving me heaping portions of grace. They picked up some of my chores to keep the household functioning, and they tolerated more sandwiches and fast food for dinner than we’d eaten since the last time we’d moved from one state to another. I slowed my life down, almost to the point that if it didn’t include Dad, it wasn’t on my calendar. I dropped off social media, postponed my writing schedule, dropped by church for little more than quick hugs, and lost track of most of my friends.
It was a sacrifice for all of us. Yet, on the day Dad finally passed away, he knew he was deeply loved. The staff at the nursing facility knew he was loved. And they loved me well in return.
It was a unique season. A hard season. But it is one I cherish.
The Shadow of Death
Whatever you face, whatever the reason you started reading this devotion, I want you to hear me. The shadow of death is fierce and terrifying. But he is not in control of this life we live. He has no power over our choices unless we give in to his taunts.
Yes, I know that’s easier said than done. Romans 8:37 comes to mind; We are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Oh, but I do not want you to think I say that flippantly.
On the nights when the nursing facility called me just as I laid my head to rest to say that they were calling the ambulance, I sighed deeply before dressing to go once again the hospital. On the days when I walked into the hospital room to answer Dad’s questions, again, about how dire the situation really was, I sighed deeply before recommitting to love him well by being honest.
And in those moments when he was out of his mind, searching for his wife so they could go home … the shadow of death lingered so close I could sense him. My heart broke. Sadness of the days I wanted to have with my dad washed over me.
Yet the truth of Romans 8:31–39 stuck with me, strengthened me.
David penned in Psalm 23:4, Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. I am determined to not fear the shadow of death. For God is with me. God.
The shadow of death doesn’t stand a chance.
Does God have a purpose for the turmoil or tragedy you are experiencing? Does a good God allow loss and send pain? How can that lurking feeling of dread for tomorrow be part of abundant life with Christ?
Grief hits us unexpectedly. A job loss, a failed relationship, a health crisis, an unexpected move, a rebellious teen, and other difficult circumstances force themselves upon us, demanding our attention. Fear, insecurity, and loneliness intimidate us into quiet submission and attempt to dictate our choices.
But what if we could shove them out our front door?
With loving concern and unyielding devotion for those facing a loss they never imagined, Carrie opens up her heart to reveal the biblical truths she’s learned through the heart-wrenching turbulence in her own life. She answers questions many Christians struggle with but dare not admit:
- Is God really good?
- Does the presence of pain and loss cancel out the abundant life promised to us?
- How can we follow God when life seems to only bring heartache?
- Is He even trustworthy?
If these are your questions, take heart! Within these pages, Carrie shares some of her very unchristian-like doubts and how she developed an intense faith and abiding trust even while Living in the Shadow of Death.
If you want to dig deeper into this book, you can also buy the journal featuring quotes from the book (links of the Book Page). Also, on the Freebies Page you’ll find a small group study guide and a leader’s guide!