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“Even though I may walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and staff comfort me.”
I have a good idea what the ‘Valley of the Shadow of Death’ looks like, because I have driven on the part that snakes its way through the hills of Tennessee. It was winter. It was night, and unlike the Psalmist, I was afraid I wouldn’t live to see daylight again.
My family and I were making a cross country trek, trying to return home from my grandfather’s funeral. We’d spent 50+ hours together on the road, from Texas to Ohio and back, through rain, sleet, snow, ice and now utter blackness. The warmth of the Lone Star state was still, for us, an eternity away.
What had started as a slight dizzy spell and dull ache at the base of my neck during our dinner break, had mushroomed into a full blown anxiety attack, about an hour later behind the wheel. With my breathing getting shallow and my pulse racing the speedometer, I strained to see anything beyond the reach of our high beams.
The tall, spiky pines that lined the rolling and swelling highway formed dark walls, thick and impenetrable in my mind’s eye. Mile markers that flew by earlier, now were absent. The only other souls along this stretch of paved nothingness were a few tractor-trailers; impatient behemoths doing their best to roll deeper into the night.
“Just stop already,” my wife pleaded and pointed at a motel, dim and dilapidated at the end of an off ramp.
Not a chance, I thought. I wasn’t even sure the place was open. I had no idea what was happening to me, but Fear was whispering ‘heart attack’ in my ears. In the confusion of the moment, I was fool enough to rationalize that, if I was about to drop dead, I wasn’t going to leave my family stranded and alone.
Finding our place on the AAA Triptik, I saw we were getting close to our planned exit, where a brand new Hampton Inn stood, holding a room for us.
“Just six more miles,” I grunted as I leaned harder into the accelerator.
Those next six miles seemed to take six hours, but eventually we found it – a well lit oasis floating in the abyss. Pulling up under the front entrance’s canopy, I almost fell out of our van, my legs quivering and disjointed.
The hotel’s automatic door slid to the side, at what seemed like a crazy angle, allowing me to wobble in towards the front desk. I managed to hand the clerk my debit card and steady myself against the cool, dark, marble counter before asking her to call an ambulance.
As embarrassing as it is to recount this, making it a permanent, public record, I came to realize that without doing so, I had no business writing on this topic. That night was necessary for me, in many ways. It didn’t end up killing me, so as the saying goes….
I’m stronger today because of it, and willing to share, hoping that someone else may be encouraged. I learned that I needed to use my faith more productively, to lighten the load – you must too.
Be encouraged, for you will know how, before we are through. Unlike a lot of products on the market today that can relieve our pains, there is no exclusivity here. The Lord wants everyone to overcome their sufferings. What’s the first thing you would like Him to help you with?
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