There are few things that bring as much comfort to a follower of Jesus in the midst of a trial than the truths and promises found in the Word of God. When we need hope, when we need an anchor to hold onto, God’s Word provides just that.
For many, Psalm 23 is one of those passages to cling to in our darkest and most difficult times. This Psalm reminds us of who God is and why we can trust Him in all circumstances. It reminds us that our God is not some distant deity unconcerned with our pain, but rather a kind and loving Shepherd who cares deeply for His children, His sheep.
As King David, under the inspiration and direction of the Holy Spirit, writes,
1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.
3 He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
And then look closely at verse 4…
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death ,I will fear no evil, for you are with me;your rod and your staff,they comfort me.
Notice that here in verse 4, David switches from speaking of the Lord as 'he' to speaking to the Lord in the first person, 'you'. Why didn't he just go on to say, 'Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, he is with me; his rod and his staff, they comfort me'?"
I think David switches to the more personal and intimate "you" precisely when he talks about entering “the valley of the shadow of death” because it is so often in the deepest, darkest valleys of our lives that the Lord draws us closest to Himself.
This was true for David and it is true for everyone of us.
We are more prone to talk “about God” when we are in the green pasture and more prone to cry out “to God” when we are in the valley.
Has this been true for you? I know it has been true for me. It has been in times of darkness, or doubt, of fear and uncertainty, when I have felt lost and scared that I cried out to the Lord most earnestly. In fact, it has been in the valleys that I have learned the most about trusting God.
Not in the easy times, but in the hard times.
It is in the dark valleys that David can say, “I will fear no evil. When I move through the deep and dark valleys of life, when death itself is not far off and is staring me in the face, I will fear no evil.”
Why can David say this? He tells us in the next part of verse 4,
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
Here we see the two primary tools used by the shepherd: the rod and the staff.
The rod is an instrument to protect and provide safety and security in the face of danger.
It guards the sheep.
The staff is an instrument to comfort and provide support and care and direction.
It guides the sheep.
You see, both the rod and the staff are needed. Both are crucial if a shepherd is to love the sheep and lead the sheep under his care, well.
As much as we don’t like it, the Lord, our Good Shepherd who is loving us and leading us, knows that for everyone of us, this side of heaven, the valley must be experienced.
But we do not go there alone.
Our Good Shepherd is with us. And He brings His rod and His staff to guard us and guide us through the darkness of the valley. What a comfort this should be to our souls.
Of course, some might wonder, why? Why must we experience the valley at all? I mean, He is God after all. Why not just keep us safe all the time? Why not keep us from ever experiencing the pain that comes in this place? Why would the Lord, if He truly loves us, lead us through a place of great danger, heartbreak, suffering, and even death?
To get us to a better place. That’s why.
A place of greater spiritual maturity and radical dependence and trust in Him. A place where we increasingly pursue purpose and experience satisfaction in Him for His glory, our joy, and the joy of others!
You see we may lack many things in life if we follow our Good Shepherd, but we will never lack anything that the Good Shepherd knows is best for us. That is true.
And that truth should bring us great hope, peace and comfort.
Especially in our brokenness, in our pain.
Especially in the valley.
One of my favorite worship songs, which I listen to often, is called, "In the Valley," written by Sovereign Grace Music. It is a song of hope for those who are hurting. The lyrics remind us of the reality of God’s presence and His gracious work in us and through us, even in the midst of the dark valleys that come our way. How true these words are…
“When You lead me to the valley of vision,
I can see You in the heights.
And though my humbling wouldn't be my decision,
It's here Your glory shines so bright.
So, let me learn that the cross precedes the crown,
To be low is to be high,
That the valley's where You make me more like Christ.
Let me find Your grace in the valley,
Let me find Your life in my death,
Let me find Your joy in my sorrow,
Your wealth in my need,
That You're near with every breath,
In the valley.”
Whether you are there right now, or when you find yourself there in the future, remember this:
In the “valley days” or “valley months” or “valley years,” do not fear.
Do not fear.
You have the One you need, better than that, the One you need has you.
Our Good Shepherd is our faithful protector and He has everything He needs and more to guide you and guard you everyday, every moment of this life.
On the mountain tops and in the valleys.
Do not fear for He is with you.
Until that day when He brings you home to heaven.