Because the Lord is my Shepherd, He will be with me when I walk through the darkest times of life. “Lord, even when your path takes me through the valley of deepest darkness, fear will never conquer me, for you already have! You remain close to me and lead me through it all the way,” Psalm 23:4a. The Passion Translation
The Way Through
A shepherd would never take his flock to a place he had not been to before. He was fully prepared to protect his sheep and lead them through. In the valley were dangers for the sheep: floods, rockslides, avalanches, poisonous plants, predators hiding in the shadows, but NOTHING would take the shepherd by surprise.
As we look over this psalm so far, Jesus, the good Shepherd, has brought us to green pastures for rest, he leads us beside still waters to refresh & restore our soul and guides us in the right paths. When life overwhelms us, we are tempted to believe that the good Shepherd would never lead us to such places as the dark valleys. But David thinks otherwise. When he writes, “I shall fear no evil for you are with me,” David does not see a Shepherd scratching his head wondering where they took a wrong turn. David trusts that his Shepherd meant for him to pass this way.
At some point in our lives we will all experience the night season or the darkest valley. This time can be challenging and confusing. In the dark night we are most prone to wander, to doubt God’s love, to listen to the voice of the accuser, to listen to our emotions, to seek relief from our pain even if it causes us more pain. Our emotions and experience will tell us that God is a million miles away and that He doesn’t care.
During these seasons people can lose heart when answers don’t come like we think they should. Do not give up by concluding that God’s promises were false. In the midst of trials or testing, how do we respond?
What we think about God will affect how we respond to life’s challenging circumstances. Remember who God is. He does not change, even when we struggle and walk through the unknown. He is your Shepherd. And because the Lord is your Shepherd, He will be with you when you walk through the darkest times of life. This verse says, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley…” We are walking through the valley. We don’t stay there. We are passing through ~ death, despair, depression, pain, loss, disappointment, discouragement. We are walking all the way through it to the other side.
When you find yourself in the dark valley, don’t settle there. Don’t build a home in the valley. Refuse anxiety, fear, confusion or despair that could otherwise cripple you in the valley. You don’t stay in the valley. You are walking through! Recount the times you have spent in the valleys and how God walked you through.
What do those dark valleys or night seasons look like or as King David called these times in Psalm 23, “the valley of the shadow of death”? In Hebrew the darkest valley means the dark, difficult and bitter experiences of life. These are the times of uncertainty and confusion or despair. Times marked with anxiety, fear or worry because the outcome is unknown. The darkest valleys are a time when joy seems like a distant memory. In the book of Job, he mentions the valley of darkness nine times. Job knew the valley of the shadow of death. He experienced it to a depth few of us have. Every one of us will walk through a valley of darkness. ALL of us, not one of us is excluded.
What is the purpose of the darkest valley? God uses the valleys to prepare us for greater things, in this life and the next. He strips things off us. God is growing our dependency upon Him and increasing our intimacy with Him. The dark valleys are as much the will of God as the still waters and green pastures David speaks of. This night season is NOT a detour! It is designed to bring us to His provision and greater purpose.
One of the greatest lies that the darkness tells us is that we are alone. We can convince ourselves that no one has ever been through what we are going through. We believe that no one understands our pain. “Our deepest wounds come when we feel betrayed by a kiss. This is where the darkness finds its way to steal your light,” Erwin McManus.
What do you do with fear? Pain? Hurt? Brokenness? Confusion? Questions? Acknowledge the feelings but don’t them have you. Remember the Good Shepherd loves you and is present with you. He is leading you through. His love is fixed on you! Recount God’s faithfulness daily. God fights for you! He will take you through the valley. Don’t resist His leadership because you can’t make it through the valley by yourself. You can’t go around the valley. You can’t run through it and you can’t ignore it. Trust your Shepherd to take you through. The valley is NOT greater than the Shepherd.
Remember that in the darkest valley or the night season, you don’t see clearly. You don’t see things as they really are! Don’t let your experiences and emotions dictate to you what is true. If you are not intentional during these dark seasons, your emotions and experiences will be your masters. You will be restless, hopeless and full of fear, anxiety and confusion. We don’t know how to interpret our experiences. They are terrible guides. Kick emotions and experiences off the throne! Let God’s Word and Truth light the darkness. Speak to your emotions and experiences, “Even though you make the most sense to me in this dark time and your voice is the loudest in my mind, I know the voice of my Shepherd. His voice is true! So shut up emotions. Shut up experience. You will not guide me in this valley!”
What is on the other side of the valley is for our good. God is better than we know. He knows where He is taking us. He has a place and purpose of where He is taking us. God’s perspective of our lives is so much better than our limited perspective. The Shepherd chooses His path for us…to lead us through.