The valley of death when you aren’t dying.

Perhaps Psalm 23 is one of the most recognizable passages for many reasons. It’s poetic nature is comfortable, and its visuals help us calm ourselves. For me, visuals are a big part of soothing the inner spirit when it becomes a bit turmoiled. “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. 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. 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 love the part about sheep except we did have sheep once. They are stubborn and dumb. They are also followers with no clue what they are following. However, they are beautiful, interesting and devoted: when they aren’t getting out of fences. It reminds me of myself and my relationship with God. I can be stubborn. Its primarily because I think I know the answer.  The green pastures and lying down beside still waters take me to a beautiful day at the lake. It’s so peaceful and calm and soothing.

God restores my soul daily especially with the blessings He brings to me that I had no clue were coming. It’s not just restoring my soul but renewing, rehoping and rehoming. When God restores, it’s a complete restoration not just a can of paint and some new hardware to make an old dresser look nicer for the moment.

But the next line, well, that’s where I start to panic. This is the line that challenges my heart. “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.” For the most part, I hear that at funerals. Appropriate yes, but where I find I need Gods presence more often is when I am walking through the valley of death, and I am not dying. The struggles don’t quit. The shadows get longer and scarier. The chill of the night I wasn’t prepared for because, well, I thought I would die. I hadn’t counted on living. I know that may be a bit of an odd statement, but many times when we are walking alone, in the cold, dark rainy parts of our world, it would be easier to die. But no, God says, here is an idea: let me walk with you. Why then do I have such a hard time identifying where God is? Is it because the fog blankets my eyes? Perhaps I am looking down at the ground trying to see the next step. Maybe I have people around me giving me advice that doesn’t fit into the things God may be saying?

The NIV translation uses the words, “through the darkest valley” as compared to the King James and Amplified, “Valley of the shadow of death.” Does the wording make any difference to my heart? Not when I am walking with my head down, worried about where my feet are placed and how heavy my heart is. What I miss is the “Even though” part of the verse. It’s the regardless, but still, despite the fact, nevertheless moments in life that God knew would invade me, He is specifically reminding me that I am not alone. Often by the time I get to the valley, I have forgotten about the green pastures, still waters and refreshing parts of where God was leading. I also quit reading, so I miss the I fear no evil, for You are with me part.

Our “I can do it myself” culture, tells us we don’t need anyone. Psalm 23 reminds me that we not only need someone, but who that someone is and how that someone has, will and will continue to guide, shield, lead, refresh, protect, comfort, feed, anoint and prepare. When you walk through to the edge of the cliff and see the valley below, remind yourself who brought you to the edge of the cliff and who will walk with you through the valley.

To finish Psalm 23, I find myself at a table, a banquet that those who might not like me are a bit jealous. I am anointed, made to feel special and I can’t hold onto all the blessings: my cup truly runneth over. And then God just puts a cherry on the top. Surely goodness and mercy will follow me. Not just down the road and around the corner, but all the days of my life. One the days when I am frightened. On the days when I feel alone. On the days when I can’t be happier and on the days, I don’t think I can feel any more hurt. The goodness of God and his mercy will be with me step for step matching my steps, so I don’t have to struggle. But the best part, I get to dwell. Dwell means to set down roots and abide. I get to abide, live, plant roots, set back and say, “Ahhhh, I am home” in the house of the Lord forever. That makes the dark valleys and the valley of death when I’m not dying worth the struggle, the fear and the feeling of being totally overwhelmed.  On any given day, I could find myself in one of the parts of Psalm 23. And any given day there are promises there that will hold me when I cry, comfort me when I fear, laugh with me when I am happy and let me lean back in the arms of God and know even though I walk through the valley, and I’m not dead, it will be okay.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *