For You Are With Me

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me.” Psalm 23:4

It was once again an almost unbearable night – when it is dark and quiet and all others are sleeping, when you hear the tinkling of the wind chimes, when you take one pill after another and nothing changes, when the pain overwhelms you in waves, when you get up and then lie down again, when you wander around the house, when you turn the lights on and off, when you attempt to read but do not know what you have read, when the clock advances only at a snail’s pace, and when the morning does not want to come.

During the course of the night, various thoughts passed through my mind. I reminded myself of what I have often said during visits to sick people, and I realize that it is easy to speak of trusting in God, persevering, and the power of prayer when it applies to others. However, if we ourselves are in this situation, it is different. It is not that easy to accept these truisms.

The next seven weeks became a test of faith for me. It was on a Saturday in March, at our church’s annual business meeting, when great pains together with a feeling of unwellness began. My situation worsened so that I had to excuse myself and drive home. The pains were almost unbearable. I drove to the hospital where they found a kidney stone, which they told me would go away on its own. However, that did not happen. An inflammation attacked my kidney. I drove to the University Hospital in Edmonton where the doctors immediately performed an operation. A stent was inserted to relieve the pressure on the kidney. Many things have happened since. I had a second surgery. Three kidney stones were removed, but a larger stone still remained in the kidney. The details are not even that important. But today, after a fourth operation, I was released stone-free from the hospital. I am grateful and thankful for God’s nearness in this “dark valley.”

Looking back, even though it was a difficult time, it was also a blessed time for me. We cannot understand everything, but let me share some thoughts with you. It is possible that you are also in a “dark valley” at this moment. I would like to encourage you to not become discouraged. Do not throw away your trust in God. There is a great reward in store.

“And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20b). Those are encouraging words that Jesus gave His disciples for their life’s journey. Jesus has never broken His promises. Like a rock in a storm, He stands solid. Immovable. However, sometimes in desperate situations we feel alone and abandoned. I had to think of the composer who wrote: “E’en when I am not feeling Thy love or might, still Thou art safely leading, though dark the night.” David supplements the verse with: “I fear no evil; for You are with me.” He is there.

“Two are better than one …” (Ecclesiastes 4:9). Solomon speaks of the blessing of true friendship in helping one another. One is there for the other. In this case, it was my dear wife. What would I have done without her? She cared for me untiringly. She read every wish of mine from my eyes. No work was too heavy or too much for her. I will never forget her prayers and her spiritual support. How blessed we are by dear people such as our marriage partner, friend, neighbor, or nurse, who are supportive and are there for us.

“And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26). This scripture pertains to the Church and our relationship, our close bond, with one another. I experienced that here in Wetaskiwin (Canada). I received many text messages, phone calls, flowers, cards, and notes with a greeting from young and old, which all encouraged me. Our dear brothers agreed to step in and bring the Word during this time. Each time my wife returned from church services, she always said that God had blessed them. I thank God for the dear brothers and sisters and their sympathy, as well as their prayers.

“Unless Your law had been my delight, I would then have perished in my affliction” (Psalm 119:92). The Word of God exudes power. It raises you up. It gives you courage. It helps you to persevere. Part of the time, I was unable to read because I was too weak and felt unwell. However, I often remembered a Bible verse that had blessed me richly. What a blessing came over me, and I was so thankful for the many verses, Psalms, and songs I had memorized.

“Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26).  If we are in agony due to extreme pain, it is almost impossible to pray. The energy is missing, and it is difficult to focus. We sigh, we groan, and single words come over our lips as a cry for help, but coherent thoughts are often missing. God’s Spirit takes over and helps us in our weakness.

“Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20). We recently studied this verse in our prayer service. During my illness, during the unbearable pain, and during the uncertainty about my situation, I learned to thank God for the hospitals, doctors, nurses, and even for the injections and the operations that relieved the pain. I even thanked God for the interesting meals served in the hospital.

“I have learned” (Philippians 4:11). Life is like a school. We learn. The Lord is our teacher. So, this time of illness became a “classroom” for me. I had much time, and again and again, I saw the great Teacher before me. He taught me, and He showed me how certain things are done, but He also corrected me. How blessed were these hours with the Lord. He gave me advice. I made new decisions, and I will now do some things differently. I have learned.

“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain” (Revelation 21:4). Every trial has an ending. If not here, then in eternity. It will not plague us forever. The Lord helped me and made me well, for which I am eternally thankful. However, this may not occur for everyone. Some may first find their cure on the “other shore,” where the Lord will wipe away all tears of pain. However the Lord decides, help is promised.

Dear child of God, we live in a fallen world. The results of the fall into sin affect us all. As believers, we are not exempt from this effect. The Lord did not guarantee us a problem-free trip, but He promised to be with us, to help us, and to give us strength for each day until we arrive at our goal. Do not give up. Persevere. He is there.                                

Harry Semenjuk

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