Andy McQuitty officially entered the Valley of the Shadow of Death at 2:58 PM on July 14, 2009, with these post-colonoscopy words from his doctor. "Andy, you have a massive tumor that has broken through the wall of your colon. It's cancer. It's serious. Get in here now."
More than a warning of mortal danger, for Andy and the roughly 1,665,540 new cancer patients diagnosed in America this year, that pronouncement was an emotional and spiritual change of address to the land that David calls the "valley of the shadow of death" in the twenty-third psalm.
Yet the serendipity Andy discovered in that Valley mirrors that of King David, whose experience of God's presence was magnified, not diminished, by the shadow of death. He found that the joy of his walk in faith with Jesus Christ actually increased with the difficulty of the terrain. He found that, though the Valley presents new difficulties, it also teams with deep blessings. And in the grateful discovery of God's faithfulness to His children in the Valley, he found that he had a compelling desire to encourage the many travelers who would soon follow him there.
And so, in the persona of a travel writer sending notes back from the desert valley of the shadow of death, this stage-four cancer survivor writes to those who want gut level answers to questions like:
"Is God as big after I get sick as when I was well?"
"Why did God let me get cancer?"
"Is it God's will to heal me and how on earth do I pray about that?"
"How can I endure this suffering?"
"Can any good thing come of all this wretched waiting and uncertainty?"
"If this Valley is indeed the beginning of the end, how can I face that?"
"What are the most important things for me to see and do in this Valley of the Shadow of Death?"
"Notes from the Valley" was written for anyone on their cancer journey who is craving words of God's wisdom for their journey that are simultaneously pastoral, evangelistic, theological, and, most of all, authentic.