Through the Valley

As people, we love the mountain top experiences. Those times when our team won a championship, we get to celebrate a milestone with family and friends, or we have a vacation experience we will remember for decades. These are those social media worthy moments of life where we post the highlight reel of our lives.
What we don’t like to talk about as much are the dark valleys of trials that often lead us to those mountain top experiences. Oftentimes, without the valleys, there is no pathway to the summit moments of life. Dark sorrow often produces those needed times of peace.
Psalm 23 deals with this idea in a very clear and direct way, but we can sometimes miss this because we don’t understand the cultural dynamic of the nomadic people who were shepherds. In order to understand this Psalm it is helpful to understand a little about how a shepherd cares for their flock. 
The sheep start in a place of contentment on the home range of pastures that are well taken care of and where all of the needs of the sheep are supplied. Similarly, the sheep end in a place of contentment on the high range for the summer months where they have fresh feed and are taken care of by the tender care of the shepherd.
The journey in between these safe places of contentment is through the dark valleys. A good shepherd knows that the pathway from the home range to the summer pastures in the high country, is through the dark valleys. This journey was needed in order to get the sheep to new pastures in order to not over graze the home pastures.  This journey creates new life.
However, in these dark valleys there is always risk of attack from predators, rapid weather changes, and situations that create fear in the sheep who are being moved. Yet, even in the midst of this tough journey the sheep could take comfort in knowing that their shepherd was with them in the midst of the journey through the valley.
David was the author of this Psalm. He grew up as a shepherd of his father’s flocks. He would often be with them in the pastures, in the valleys, and during their journeys of taking care of the sheep in the high country. David takes his experiences and lays the images of how a shepherd cares for his sheep on the relationship of how God cares for His people.
The fourth verse says that “Even when I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no danger, for you are with me.” In this one verse the tone of the Psalm changes. The overall theme of the Psalm is one of deep trust. What we see with this connection to the dark valleys is that the way someone can build deep trust with God is by walking through the valleys knowing that God is present and not absent.
The Bible doesn’t lie to us and tell us that life is going to be nice and easy. Rather, we live in a sin-cursed world that is stained with brokenness all around us. This was not God’s plan, yet, His promise is that He walks with us through those moments when we feel the most alone and vulnerable. In fact, David tells us that we can go through these times fearing no evil because God is with us. 
I don’t know what valley you may be walking through, but I want you to know that in the darkest times when you feel the most alone, God is right with you. Whether you are struggling with anxiety or depression, or the loss of a marriage, or a broken relationship with your child, you can trust that God is walking with you.
Through Christ He knows your pain. He knows your sorrow. He knows what it is like to be betrayed by someone. He knows what it is like to be abandoned in a time of great need. He knows what it is like to be slandered, spat on, tortured, and ultimately killed.
As you are walking through your dark valleys may you know that His promise is to be WITH YOU. Your journeys may not be easy. Know that you are not alone in the dark valleys.

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