An invitation to intimacy.
Psalm 23 has been resonating inside my heart a lot lately, especially the verse that says, “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, ESV). This Psalm was written by David, a man who knew what it means to walk with God and who trusted God to lead him not just through green pastures and still waters but also through “the valley of deep darkness,” as one translation puts it. The writer ends the Psalm so confidently as he expresses his faith in God’s steadfast love that will be his constant companion- until he takes his last breath. He says in verse 6, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” It’s so beautiful to see such faith pouring out through the words of this Psalm! How many of us can truly say that we have come to know and trust God in such a deep way that we choose to follow Him no matter where He takes us? Sometimes the path He lays out before us goes straight through the valley. It’s there, in the darkness of the valley, that we learn to walk by faith and not by sight. As we make our way through it, we are comforted by His rod and His staff. Have you ever wondered why there are two words used to describe the way He comforts us? These words are similar but I think the writer intended to display two different aspects of God’s leading. A rod symbolizes authority while a staff is used for walking or climbing. God is not a firm leader who expects us to follow Him no matter how incapable we are to do that on our own- He is a leader that helps us in being able to “walk” or “climb” wherever He leads us. His leadership as our Shepherd is characterized by guidance as well as support. What true comfort! David was not afraid to walk through the valley of the shadow of death because he knew that God was with him. What valley of the shadow of death are you walking through? Will you trust God and keep following Him or will you try to find another way- an easier path? I wonder how much our relationship with God would change if we truly believed that He is with us in the thick of the night. Let trust replace your fear! God allows us to go through the bareness of the valley because He wants us to depend solely upon Him. Without the valleys, we wouldn’t learn obedience and trust. There’s a season of refreshment by the still waters but there’s also a season of uncertainty in the darkness of the valley where we cling tightest to His hand. God is faithful to lead us in the paths of righteousness because He loves us too much to allow us to stray further and further away from Him. In verse 3, David says, “He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” Sometimes that means walking through the darkest of valleys but we are never left on our own. God is not only focused on disciplining us, He is also aching for us to walk hand in hand with Him. The valley is an invitation to a deeper intimacy with God but how often do we see it for what it truly is? Lately, I’ve been sensing God’s voice beckoning me to come away with Him and His gentle whisper filled my heart with both excitement and fear as I anticipated what a future close to His heart might hold. What I didn’t realize was that this call to step into His limitless horizon of divine possibilities sometimes if not always starts by going through the valley. We almost never expect to go through it but it’s part of God’s invitation to deepen our intimacy with Him. I know it’s hard in the valley, when it feels like there’s no way out and you can’t even see where you’re walking. I know what it’s like when every bit of hope seems to slip right through your fingers and all you’re left with are empty, weak, and trembling hands. I’m walking through the valley as I’m writing this but even though my heart is breaking and my faith feels so small- there are countless moments when God so gently reminds me that He’s still holding my hand. Even when my hands feel empty, instead of trying to grasp at my own attempts of finding my way- I should just hold on to Him. Maybe you’re thinking that you need to prove something to God by being able to walk through the valley alone- you don’t. He knows our frailty. We are nothing without Him. He doesn’t allow us to walk through the valley because we are strong but because He wants us to hold His hand and to follow Him in complete obedience and trust. David wasn’t afraid to walk through the valley of the shadow of death because he knew his way or was capable to walk alone but because he trusted God and obeyed His lead. By faith, he felt God close to him- closer than his very breath. Our human tendency is to think that the valley is a place where we’re left all on our own in order to “prove” ourselves. Nothing could be farther from the truth! When David walked through the valley, God was right there with him. God was the One leading him through it and helping him take every step. There is comfort in the valley and this comfort comes from being aware of the truth that God knows where He’s taking us and that He is helping us every step of the way. Have you ever found yourself upon the green pasture of victory after walking through the valley? I’ve had that experience in the past; the valley I walked through was the darkest and most terrifying of valleys. What did you see when you looked back? Did you see yourself all alone or did you see God walking you through it? God is always with us! No matter where we find ourselves. No matter how thick the night! Maybe this is your first time walking through the valley and you’ve never experienced what I just wrote. Maybe you feel unprepared as you stumble through the darkness. When God brought me out of that valley, I used to think that I will be prepared to trust Him no matter what other valley He would lead me through. The truth is, every valley is new, every step we take is unknown to us but the Shepherd knows where He’s leading us. He’s been faithful to lead throughout all generations! Don’t be afraid and choose to follow. Even when everyone might become your enemy because they don’t understand why you choose to walk through the valley instead of finding an easy way out. God’s love was so complete even in the midst of David’s pain that his heart was overflowing with it. He says in verse 5, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” The valley is never easy but it is worth it! One day we will look back and bless it because it has brought us so much closer to the Shepherd’s heart. The valley of the shadow of death is not forever and our eyes will see the sun again! Let us not stop following His lead and remaining dependent upon Him even when He leads us out of the valley and places us upon mountain heights! The valley is an essential part of going deeper in our relationship with God. It is never intended to lead us farther away from Him but to bring us so much closer to Him than we were before. Don’t miss God’s invitation to discover intimacy with Him in a way you might’ve never known was even possible!!! Can’t you hear the whisper that calls you to come away with Him? The dreams He dreams for your life are so much more beautiful than your greatest dreams. When God is your Shepherd, you have need of nothing else because He is enough! That’s why David says in verse 1, “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.” Will you go through the valley if He wants you to?