Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Valley of the Shadow

I love it when I read familiar Bible verses and see something new in them.  For example, anyone who has ever read the Bible knows about Psalm 23.  It’s famous and everyone loves to quote it for the “feel good” emotions that it gives us. 

Well last week, I learned something new about Psalm 23.  I went to a ladies Bible study at one of our churches last Tuesday.  We’ve been studying the Psalms and this time, we studied Psalm 23.  At first, I really wasn’t excited.  I was thinking, “Really?  Of all the Psalms, why this one?  Let’s do one that not many people talk about.”  Well, I was wrong!  I have gotten more comfort and encouragement from one part of this psalm than I could have imagined.  Let me explain.

The psalm begins with the “feel good” statements that we all like.

                         The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
                         He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.
                         He leadeth me beside the still waters.
                         He restoreth my soul.
                         He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake. 

 Pretty great, huh?  But what amazed me that night were the following verses.  Notice how they directly follow the verse about being led in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

                        Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
                        I will fear no evil: For thou art with me;
                        Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. 

Now, maybe you’ve never noticed this either but it seems to be saying that sometimes the Lord leads us on paths of righteousness that require us to pass through the valley of the shadow of death.  Does that make sense - really think about that!  Why would we be led through the valley of the shadow of death if we’re traveling on the paths of righteousness?  What kind of a God would do that to us??  The God that provides His rod and staff to guide and comfort us.  The God who says, “Fear no evil, I am with you.”

So, we know that we will sometimes travel the lonely road.  But keep reading through the psalm.  What happens at the end of the road?

                        Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.
                        Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
                        Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life;
                        And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. 

 I truly believe that our cup will run over because we will know the presence of the God who has protected us in the valleys of shadow and the paths of righteousness.  We will know that goodness and mercy follow us because even IN the valleys of the shadow of death – we have NOTHING to fear.  The Lord is our protector and will go before us EVERY single time.

So, what are you afraid of right now?  What is your valley?  I believe that one of the valleys God currently has me traveling through is the valley of infertility.  He has not allowed me and my husband to have children.  Why?  I don’t know.  I want that more than anything – EXCEPT to be faithful to Him.  So, I walk on through the valley and I trust.  This makes me think of the book “Oh, the Places You’ll Go” by Dr. Seuss.   

There’s a part of the book that says:

                        You will come to a place where the streets are not marked. 
                        Some windows are lighted.  But mostly they're darked. 
                        A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin! 
                        Do you dare to stay out?  Do you dare to go in?
                        How much can you lose? How much can you win?
                        And IF you go in, should you turn left or right...
                        or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite?

Some days, I seem to be stumbling along through the darkness with no idea of where I’m headed or where to go or what to do.  It’s then that I’m reminded – I’m walking through the valley of the shadow.  But I’m also reminded that my Guide knows exactly where He is leading me and it’s going to be more awesome than I can imagine!

So, keep on walking . . . you know what’s on the other side of the valley!