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  • Beth Lantinga

In the Valley of the Shadow

Rev. Visky was not the only one who referred to all Romania as a large, communist detention center. Like others, he and his family lived for decades under surveillance and harassment by the secret police. Though I try to practice the presence of God, I cannot imagine having the presence of mind to respond to their tactics with his deep faith and abiding trust.

The Lord is my Shepherd

“A key message during those times relates to Psalm 23. In 1980, though we were free from captivity, we were still subject to house searches, so one morning when we were having breakfast, five people from the Securitate (secret police) from Bucharest arrived. A captain was present, so it was a haughty and arrogant group. When they entered our home, they showed us their permit to search, and I agreed, but we continued calmly having our breakfast. They couldn’t fit in the room, but we invited them to sit. I could see that they were uncomfortable, though in this situation, we should have been the uncomfortable ones. This was good.

Then we started to talk, and I told them that I had known that they were coming because that morning I had read in Psalm 23 that, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall lack nothing, even if I am in the valley of the shadow of death, etc., etc., etc. I told them that it is a very precious psalm for me. The self-important captain asked me to explain. I didn’t need to be asked twice so I began.

It is important for me that in the Word one reads that, ‘You make a table for me in the presence of my enemies. My cup is full, and I have no fear even in the shadow of the valley of death because I know that you are with me and your hand holds my hand.’ I told the captain that in a situation like this, the one about to be arrested or interrogated should lose his appetite. I told him that he had brought my appetite.

They wondered what I meant, so I told them that I had a good appetite because God was the one who set my table. ‘So, here,’ I said, ‘God is my waiter.’ I hope this does not sound like blasphemy. Maybe I should correct my words and say host instead of waiter. ‘Understand it well. God is very precious to us, but he doesn’t always put on the table the sort of meal that I really like. Presently, I do not really like what you, Captain, are going to do with us in a few moments, but I’m not looking at the things that are on the table; I’m looking at the one who put you on my table. That’s why I have a good appetite, and that’s why I can be liberated even in such a moment.’

Rhythms of the Heart

There is also a newer Psalm 23 event. You may know that I have a condition with my heart; in a way it has fallen out of the heavenly harmony. It’s not beating according to a heavenly rhythm. Because of this disease, I needed to have an operation and had to travel to Debrecen in Hungary – unknown surroundings, cardiology department, surgery, and so on. I was lying horizontally, being rolled on a cart to the operating room by a young man whom I told that my hope and encouragement is that the Lord is my shepherd. He finished the verse saying, I lack nothing. I asked him how he knew this verse, and he said, “I’m a believer.” This in itself was a bit of encouragement.

He rolled me into the elevator, and we prayed together. We had some time before the surgery to talk together about the verse, “I lack nothing.” Could it be true? I could hardly breathe by that time; my heartbeat was disorderly. I was far away from my family, and everything in the hospital was strange. So how could it be true that I lacked nothing though at the same time I really did lack many things?

Then I understood that maybe I can lack breath, oxygen, family, and money, but I never lack his shepherding. There isn’t any fault with that. It’s not me who orders him to be my shepherd. This is his individual and independent right; he is pastoring me the way he thinks best. I was so glad that I received such enlightenment then about his shepherding, that it is full and complete even when I am walking in the valley of the shadow of death. I have to be careful not to try to define his shepherding according to my own criteria.

The cup of bitterness was given him not by Caiphus, though it seemed like he gave it. It was not Caiphus; it was the Father. So never look at the thing in the cup, but look at the Father who gave it to you. This is somehow a new meaning of the Word from Psalm 23 for me. It’s not me who should define the limits of his shepherding; we should let he himself tell us what it is.”

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 © Beth Lantinga 2020