“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley…” (Psalm 23:1-4)
Yes, there are valleys. Wait a minute…what happened to the guide and the “paths of righteousness”? No one mentioned a “valley” or having to walk through it. I thought being right with God meant no more valleys. Can’t we just stay on the mountain top?
No we can’t. Valleys are not only there, but they are necessary for many reasons. Much of what we need in our life’s journey is found in the valleys.
We learn, in nature, that the valley is actually a good place. It provides shelter from severe weather. It is also where the resources are. It is where we find the green pastures and the quiet waters. Creation tells us that the valleys are some of the most beautiful places. I think about that when driving down I-81 through the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. There is a peace in the valley, as the old song says. So, just as the streams flow down the mountain and into the valley…our lives also, naturally flow to the valley.
So, it seems to emotionally challenge us when we hear…”The valley of death”. Something comforting (a valley) and something fearful (death). This is the beauty of the Scripture and this passage particularly. God does not see things the way we see things. Even death is seen differently. Most importantly, if we are under the care of the good Shepherd we do not need to be afraid no matter what our circumstances. Suffering and blessing can be faced without fear. We can experience peace and contentment no matter the conditions around us.
The Apostle Paul experienced persecution and suffering as well as blessings. Near the end of his ministry from a prison cell he wrote these words to the church in Phillipi:
“I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13)
Paul is constantly reminding us that it is our relationship with the Shepherd that brings us peace. Whether we are in a dry desert or walking by still waters…in a storm of suffering or a valley of death we need not fear. We can experience contentment. A peace from God that is “beyond understanding” (ref; Phil. 4:7).
This can even give us a better understanding of the experience of Jesus and the cross during this Lenten season. Our wonderful salvation that we enjoy came by the suffering and sacrifice of our Savior. He walked through the “valley of death” for you so that you would no longer be a slave to fear.
Today you may be in a valley of suffering or facing a mountain of anxiety on your journey, but let the Psalm and the words of Jesus remind you, “fear not for I am with you”.