Monday, July 18, 2011

Through Valleys

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. (Psalm 23:4)

Not away from the valley of the shadow of death. Not around. Not over.


My initial reaction to this statement is, what kind of shepherd is this? Isn't this describing God? Can't He simply take the pain away, remove us from the valley, even miraculously make the darkness disappear in an instant? Yet He's just not that kind of shepherd.

He's the kind that walks with us and comforts us right in the midst of the darkness. Maybe this is why Paul could later write in Romans that suffering somehow leads to hope--our present pain is a conduit for future hope and faith and love. "For you are with me." God is not above the valley, looking on as we navigate it on our own, hoping we make it out alive. He's not somewhere far away, busy with some other divine errand. He is with us, with me. Jesus takes up this idea again in John 10, saying, "I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me." And if Jesus is with us and for us, then we have nothing to fear. "I will fear no evil." Fear has to do with punishment, but experiencing Christ's perfect love drives away fear.

I don't need to fear the valleys, to distract myself from the pain, make feeble attempts to deny and avoid. I am a deeply loved sheep. My shepherd is good. Really good. Perhaps that is enough.

May you seek the good shepherd in your darkness, inviting Him to guide you through the pain instead of away from it.

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