Friday February 10, 2006
The Believer’s Valley Experiences
In the Bible, valleys symbolize periods of hardship and suffering. The Psalmist evokes a particularly dangerous and painful image by referring to “the valley of the shadow of death” (v. 4). In the midst of a poem meant to provide comfort and assurance is a cold reminder that spiritual valleys are inevitable. But if we read only of green pastures and quiet waters, we miss the heart of Psalm 23 and a core truth about the believer’s life.
The valley verse contains a promise not found among the lovely first lines. In hardship, believers discover “Thou art with me” (v. 4). God’s unwavering presence becomes most obvious to us when we are vulnerable. And along with our experience of His assurance and comfort comes the understanding that the Lord goes with us daily — even into the depths of our despair. When people do not recognize His constancy, they turn to other coping methods, such as going to bars for a so-called “Happy Hour” or burying themselves in work. But filled with the knowledge that God holds us no matter how deep or wide our “valley” is, believers can release fear and endure suffering.
As the Good Shepherd, Jesus protects and guides His lambs through trials. Even in these low places, we cannot be snatched from Him (John 10:29). His rod beats away predators trying to drag away one of the flock. And His staff’s crooked neck pulls a wandering sheep back from the cliff’s edge.
When we are in a dark valley, God may be our only comfort. But we can take heart because He’s always there — our Shepherd never forsakes His beloved lambs.
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