Have you traveled through the valley of the shadow of death? What is that place the Psalmist David talks of probably near the end of his life in Ps 23? We do not always walk through “green pasture.” Not always; sometimes He who knoweth best; in kindness leadeth me in weary ways where heavy shadows be- (unknown).
There are places and times when green pasture paths plunge into dark valleys. This conjures up images of deep darkness, not a place we want or like to go. It may be darkness of depression or trial, loss or illness. The thoughts are associated with death or deep anxiety, a mine shaft experience. John Bunyan, in Pilgrim’s Progress, referred to it as “dark as pitch” where hobgoblins live, or where live the dragons of “Middle-earth” in the trilogy of the Lord of the Ring. It is where King David fell and would have stayed had not He that is able pulled him out.
Paul tells us, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22). Perhaps it reminds you of an employer saying, “clean out your desk” or “cleaning out a closet” when a son or daughter leave home. Deep loneliness, isolation or despair may come in these times we have caused, or as a result of unforeseen events in our lives. These are nevertheless difficult times from which perhaps we want to run as David tried. The author Andrew Solzhenitsyn wrote that “suffering ripens our soul.” There seem to be no cushions on the ride as we are jolted along usually against our will. When we come to the end of the valleys we’ll understand that every path has been selected, out of all possible options, for our ultimate good said author David Roper in his book about Psalm 23. If only we could see the path, we would select it as well, perhaps?
“Who led us through the wilderness, through the land of deserts and pits, through the land of draught and the shadow of death." (Jeremiah 2:6). If it is God, what is he doing or “why?” Job cried out?
Well, David came to a place where he was able to say that even though we go through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. Why? Because God is with us, His rod and staff comforting and protecting us. Notice in the psalm, we are walking and we are getting through with God’s guidance, if we will accept or chose it. What God said to Moses is also true for all time, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” (Exodus 33:14). He told Joshua the same in his fear. The Prophet Isaiah 41:10, 43:2, said, “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand…When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”
God is with us- The Immanuel of Christmas. Friends and family will fail us, circumstances will be cruel, but God is always there, even when we don’t see or experience Him. Richard Foster said, “God becomes a reality, when God becomes a necessity.”
It seems to me, as we rise out of the valleys, we see more clearly. We come to a place, if we look for it, that we find that God has been working for our good in the dark places. Ask him, cry out to him. God will tell you, not why, but what to do and how to do it in it. Oh, and one thing more, all valleys end, no valley or testing goes on forever. He tells us in 1 Cor 10:13, that he will provide a way out or through if we seek him. Psalm 30:5 tells us, “Weeping may remain for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”