Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.
1. The Valley
Throughout life, we all, no matter who we are, go through “valley of death” times. We can’t plan in advance for a Valley; we can’t schedule one into our diary for when it’s convenient; They usually seem to come at what we feel is the worst possible time. (Is there ever a good time for trying circumstances?)
Jesus tells us in John 16:33: “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
If I’m honest, when I read that verse my first thought isn’t “Oh ok, that’s great Lord, bring on the trials!”
No one enjoys going through hard times. I’ve never in all my life heard a person say, “wow, I’m just loving this hard time I’m going through, God’s teaching me so much!”
But this I do do know, with all of my heart. If you find yourself in a Valley today, whatever your circumstances are, you can be sure of these things:
God has not left you. He walks with you. He will comfort you. You need not fear!
IT’S NOT A DEAD END (even when it looks like one!)
This place you find yourself in, is a Valley, not a dead end, even though it may feel like one at the moment.
David speaks of “The Valley of The Shadow of Death”. It sounds so deep and dark, doesn’t it? When you’re in a place like this it can feel as though you just might never make it out again. When you’re down at the deepest part of the Valley, where the rays of the sun hardly reach, it feels like a deep, dark pit. But look at aerial views of any valley – they are not dead-ends. There’s a way in and a way out.
In verses two and three of Psalm 23, David writes “He leads me beside still waters.” “He leads me in paths of righteousness”. “He leads me” speaks of walking somewhere with God. In the next verse David says, “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil..” David is not thinking of setting up home there, in the valley, he’s walking through it.
Valleys in our Christian walk are only ever to be walked through. They’re a place where we truly experience God walking beside us and know what it is to be comforted by His presence and see His miraculous power at work.
GOD’S WAYS ARE NOT OUR WAYS
I often try to imagine how I would have reacted if I’d been one of the Israelites. When the Egyptians pursued them right up to the shore of the Red Sea, it must have been terrifying. I wonder did they think, “What are you doing, God?” “Why have you led us here, between the mountains, where we’re a sitting duck?!” “Where are you? Have you deserted us?” “There’s no way out!!” But God was about to make a miraculous way for them to cross!
Our God is a supernatural, miraculous God! He says “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.” (Isaiah 55:8)
When we’re walking through a valley we need to keep in mind that although God isn’t doing things the way we think He should have done them, His Faithfulness, His leading, His timing, His grace and His Mercy will never fail.
2. THE MOUNTAIN TOP
People often use the term ‘Mountain Top’ to describe where they’re ‘at’ in their walk with God, when things are going well. The mountain is a place of awe and wonder. It’s a place of insight and inspiration.
In the Bible Mountains are often recorded as places of powerful, personal encounters with God.
. Abraham’s faith was tested on a mountain. He took his son and did as the Lord had told him to. Just as he was preparing to do the unthinkable, at the critical moment, God came through (Genesis 22).
. It was on Mount Ararat that Noah’s ark came to rest after the Flood . God made a covenant with Noah there.
. In Luke 9, Peter, James and John had the greatest Mountain Top experience ever, when Jesus took them up the mountain with him to pray. Suddenly the veil of Jesus’ humanity dropped away, revealing His Glory. There in front of them stood Jesus The Son, the third person of the Trinity.
. When Moses received the Ten Commandments on the mountain. His encounter with God was so Powerful that when he came back down off the mountain his face radiated the glory of God’s presence. (Exodus 20)
The Mountain Top Prepares Us For The Valley:
God doesn’t lead us to the Mountain Top to give us “holy goosebumps”. It’s not about the experience. When we encounter God in a real, powerful, dramatic Mountain Top way, we’re impacted, by His glory and His presence and it changes the way we behave.
But just as we aren’t meant to live in the Valley, mountain-top experiences are part of our journey. We are not called to stay on the top of the mountain. The Mountain Top is where God prepares us for The Valley.
Wherever you find yourself today, whether Mountain Top or Valley, God’s presence is ALWAYS with you. He speaks, directs, guides, leads and comforts you, continually.
Enjoy His presence and His nearness.
Psalm 139:7-10: “I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me.”
He is and always will be, our Shepherd.