The burden of proof for most things is "Beyond a shadow of a doubt." But what does that even mean?
We know it means that there is no shred of doubt left in the mind, that the person is absolutely convinced, that there's no wiggle room. Have you considered, though, what the phrase literally means?
Not just beyond doubt, not just absolutely convinced, not just without wiggle room - but without the further option of such. Beyond a shadow of a doubt is a place where when light casts a darkness on the facts or the situation, there's not even a chance the darkness can fall on your mind. That's a tough standard. We don't even live beyond a shadow of a doubt...when it comes to the shadow of the cross.
Most of us have faith, reasonable faith or radical faith, that tells us most of the time that there's no room for doubt. We are absolutely convinced (right now). There is no wiggle room. God is God.
Or is He?
When all of a sudden, life casts a shadow, the darkness still hits us. We find ourselves in this place where, with unanswered questions and uncomforted hearts, we still sort of wonder if God is really out there. If He exists. If He loves us. If this Jesus means anything. Then we are not beyond a shadow of a doubt but rather, firmly in it.
That's why I think the wording of Psalm 23 is so poignant. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death...
I've heard a lot of sermons over the years and Bible classes trying to figure out what the valley of the shadow of death is. Many metaphors, expositions on the phrase. They all twist and turn it into something that sounds almost reasonable, almost comprehensible to us, but they still leave us wanting. I don't think it's that hard.
The valley of the shadow of death is that low place in your life where you know death can't hurt you, but its shadow falls over you and the darkness raises some questions, or at least some anxieties. It is there, the Psalmist says, that the rod and the staff of God comfort us. In that place where we are overcome again not by death - for we know death has no power over us - but by the darkness and the shadow of death, which still has its questions in those dark moments, God's rod - His loving discipline - and His staff - the tool of our Good Shepherd - comforts us. He leads us and loves us like any good Father and Shepherd would even when we're there in the shadows where we suddenly realize we're not beyond a doubt.
Even if consciously, we think we should be.
Sometimes, we think faith has to be absolute. In a dream world, maybe, but in the place where we live, most of us are somewhere between doubt and beyond its shadow. We're somewhere in the place where darkness can still reach us in this moment or that, and we have to keep our eyes on the way the light shines. It can be discouraging if you're one of those people who thinks belief is all or nothing, faith is yes or no. But I'm not so convinced that the shadows are a bad place to be.
I think, instead, they're an awesome place for God to be. In the shadows, leading and loving.