The anthem of children in the back seats of cars is echoing in my head: Are we there yet?
Where’s the finish line for this global emergency? How far away is it? When will we be able to see our friends again? How long can we keep the world switched off and still expect it to work properly when we switch it back on?
Are we there yet..?
No. It’s a long trip, and we’ve only just begun. Listen to the music. Look out the window. Relax.
That’s what I say to my own children in the car, but now I don’t like the way it sounds. I don’t want this trip to be long, and where are we going, anyway? We can’t go to Grandma’s house, we have to keep our distance. Are we even on the road anymore, or did we fall off a cliff in slow motion?
I don’t know. No one else does, either.
I hate not knowing. I want a finish line. I want a goal, or at least a light at the end of the tunnel. Right now, there doesn’t seem to be much light anywhere. We fell together – the whole world of us – into the “valley of the shadow of death” David wrote about in Psalm 23. It’s dark here and it’s dangerous and we want to get out, just like he did. And we’ve only just arrived – David lived in this kind of valley for years, literally running for his life. We’re sitting at home, wondering if death will come to us, or people we love. Either way, it’s not the kind of valley we want to hang around in. Anyone who comes here has the same question, the question David asks over and over again in the Psalms: “How long?”
“How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?” - Psalm 13
Are we there yet..?
David didn’t know the answer any more than we do now. He waited years before he saw it. Years! How did he keep going so long, with so much uncertainty? He tells us, in Psalm 23: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me”.
He didn’t say that evil wouldn’t come. He knew better, from his own experience. Still, even when evil did come, he wouldn’t fear it – not even death – as long as he knew God was there with him. This man who spent so much time in the valley ends Psalm 23 saying: “Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” All the days. Even the days in the valley. And David saw death itself as the beginning of life forever with his Lord.
We all want to get out of the valley of the shadow of death as soon as possible. We’re all asking the question “how long?”. In the waiting, in the uncertainty stretching out before us, we can take comfort in the words of David, who walked through this valley before us. We can find the same stable ground in the promises of the same unchanging God who was with David, even in the valley. The same hope is possible for us, if we put our trust in the same God.