“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. Psalm 23:4
Sitting in the room as the Board of the PAYH met for their semi-annual meeting were Board members who had walked through valleys of deep darkness: two spouses lost to disease, one member fighting cancer, another’s house recently burned down, child and grandchild died, grandchild born with severe life threatening disability, and other valleys of deep darkness not mentioned here through which they had walked or were walking. This represents only a small microcosm of the church or even the whole population of the earth; consider the whole, a great number, of those who have or are walking through valleys of deep darkness, as the “valley of the shadow of death literally means, yesterday or today or yet future. Wouldn’t you have to agree that this 23rd Psalm is relevant to your everyday life; powerfully and intimately speaking into your own life’s milieu? Psalm 23 is not the most well-known Psalm for no particular reason; it presents the over-riding reason for continuing on when a path is at its darkest; it is overwhelmingly relevant to life’s experience!
There are three representative valleys of which the shadow of death or the valley of deep darkness speaks. The first is the valley of sin; nothing darker than that! It is the valley of confronting your own sin and coming to grips with the reality and depth of it. It is in the depths of this valley when you come to the graphic recognition of your own sin when you meet the Good Shepherd face to face, “for You are with me! The battle with sin, as the wilderness experience of the Shepherd, is a dark, dark valley; it is also the place where He is with you to respond with overwhelming grace to genuine repentance.
The second is the valley of affliction in which we are well reminded of the witness of Scripture, “Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. (Hebrews 5:8) Jesus has walked the valley of deep darkness enabling you as his companion to “fear no evil when the walls of the valley of darkness feel like they are going to crush you. No valley of affliction is too great to overcome the hope and mercy of His promise: “your rod and your staff, they comfort me and “surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. If in the valley of your affliction you do not reach out for the “Rock of Ages and find him in the midst of your “slough of despond you are to be most pitied of all men, for the promise is there for the humble and the wise, the “almost, but not yet, drowned.
The third is the current valley one of the PAYH’s dearest friends is walking right now. The doctors have said of his well spread cancer, “There is nothing more we can do! In spite of friends and loved ones gathered around in many cases, this is a valley we walk alone, but only of human companionship, yet never truly alone for the sheep of this Shepherd. The body may fall asleep for the present, but the spirit is consciously and immediately in the presence of the One who said, “Today you will be with me in Paradise. “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. Instantaneously! The very reason why the sorrow is all yours is the temporary separation from one well-loved, but still one who by his/her faith is immediately in His presence.
The valleys of deep darkness in your life are all too real, and never void of fear, but the promise of the Shepherd of Psalm 23 is far greater and cannot be overcome by the darkness. “I will fear no evil is your rock and your set “eyes of faith. Don’t go into your valley without this truth prominently in your heart.
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