It’s amazing how suddenly it gets dark in winter. My eleven year old son Samuel has recently discovered this phenomenon! He has just started travelling home from school on public transport. When he leaves school at 3:20pm, it’s still daylight, but by the time he gets back home to the bus stop at the end of our road, deep darkness has descended. The bus stop is only a five minute walk away from home – but five minutes can seem like forever, when you’re alone in the dark.
A few weeks ago he came through the door looking more than a little relieved to be home. As I made Samuel his customary welcome-home cup of tea, it wasn’t long before he was sharing with me what had been bothering him.
As he had been walking up the road towards home, he had heard the footsteps of someone walking behind him. Perhaps only naturally, he began to quicken his pace. But as his own footsteps quickened, so too did the ones behind him! Suddenly, his overactive eleven year old imagination began to run riot. Somebody was following him! Somebody was out to get him! Anxiety began to mount. He daren’t turn around to face his pursuer. And so he just kept on walking, as fast as his little legs could carry him, with his face set like flint towards home! And then it happened. The footsteps gained on him. His pursuer was getting closer. Surely something dreadful was about to happen! He could feel his heart pounding in his rib-cage like a drum. The fear was almost too much to bear…..and then in a moment, the panic was over. Whoever had been behind him, was now suddenly in front! They had simply been in a hurry and had been trying to overtake him!
The dark times of life can descend upon us so suddenly, can’t they? We hear bad news almost every day. All of us know people who have been faced with life’s darker days. Perhaps we have faced them ourselves. Illness. Bereavement. Redundancy. Divorce. Debt. The list goes on. It’s no wonder so many of us experience fear and anxiety at different times in our lives. Worry can creep up behind us when we least expect it. And fear can be a relentless pursuer – always on the lookout for someone who feels vulnerable and alone in the dark. The future is so unpredictable. We can live in a sense of dread that something terrible is about to happen. The footsteps of fear can sometimes overtake us – and home can feel so far away.
For a few days after Sam’s frightening experience, I agreed to meet him at the bottom of the road and walk home with him. But after a few days of doing this, I began to feel that I ought to encourage Sam to overcome his fears. As I began to ponder how to help him, I felt God remind me of a well known verse from Psalm 23:
“Surely goodness and loving-kindness shall follow me all the days of my life”.
That’s it – I thought! And so I began to share with Samuel. The bible tells us that what’s REALLY following us is God’s goodness. Not calamity and disaster. Not dread and fear! Friend, we are pursued by love!
Winter may last for a few months. The world may still have its dark days. But God is with us! Even if we have to walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, we have no need to fear – for God is with us! And His rod and staff they comfort us. He prepares a table before us in the presence of our enemies – in other words, He makes it quite clear who’s side He is on! He’s on OURS! Totally 100% for us – just as I am for Sam.
So now, we have it pretty well worked out. Every time Sam gets off the bus, he calls me from his mobile phone. And we talk as he walks. Even though he cannot see me face to face, he knows that I am there. He can hear my voice – and the sound of my voice ushers in all the warmth and comfort of home. We talk about his day. We talk about what we’re having for dinner. Sam normally asks me to put the kettle on for that daily cuppa. We talk about any old jibber jabber really. It doesn’t matter – as long as he knows I’m there.
Remember, God is just a prayer away. If we can only learn to ‘talk as we walk’, then no matter what this life throws at us, we will have the assurance that God is with us. And as we talk with Him, we will begin to hear His voice. The voice of our Father, which chases away all fear, and ushers in all the warmth and comfort of home. And every now and then we will hear Him reminding us that we are not really all that far from home. In fact, the kettle’s already on….
To finish, I will relay a funny story I heard recently:
Two boys were walking along the road. Suddenly they heard footsteps behind them. The first boy said to the second:
“Shhh…don’t look now, but I think we’re being followed!”
The boys walked on, huddling closer together. The second boy felt a pang of fear for a brief moment, but then after a few seconds, he relaxed a little and spoke up, reassuringly. “Aaah don’t worry. It’s probably just Shirley Goodness!”
“Who’s Shirley Goodness?!” asked the first boy.
“I dunno’,” shrugged the second boy, “but I heard my mum reading about her in the bible the other night – she said that Shirley Goodness and loving-kindness will follow me all the days of my life!”
All joking aside – it’s totally true. We are pursued by LOVE!