Wadi Qelt, “The Valley of the Shadow of Death” located in the Judaean Desert photo from gooddairy.com
IN THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW
(another word from Psalm 23…the never ending source of solace)
What do we do when we find ourselves in “the valley of the shadow—” that place where we hardly have strength to cry out for help; that place that seems so dark and lonely. Let’s take another look at our beloved Psalm 23 for an action plan. When David began to share this song with us, as it had been revealed to him by the One whose heart he was after, he began by reminding himself of truths about having a relationship with The Father. Let’s envision him on a Judean hillside, looking upward toward the heavens, probably at night when it’s the darkest, declaring these words. Got the picture? Let’s join him.
David hits his “valley of the shadow” head on with this declaration: “The Lord IS MY SHEPHERD.” Present tense…the Lord is my shepherd! Right now…not “in the past…maybe tomorrow…right now!” He is my shepherd in the good times and He is the same shepherd in the bad times. He is my shepherd right now despite my circumstances, despite my doubt, despite my desperation, despite my pain, despite my ___________________ go ahead and fill in the blank—then declare, the LORD IS MY SHEPHERD!
While David likely declared this truth often, let’s envision him declaring this truth from a position “in a valley.” Regardless of the depth, width, or length of the valley, so long as He continued to make this declaration, His Lord was listening. Just like David, when we cry out, “The Lord IS my shepherd,” the Lord is listening. He turns His ear to us. (Read Psalm 116:2). Go ahead and declare it again, “The Lord IS my shepherd,” and feel confident that He is listening to you.
There may have been times during which David had to yell this truth across the Judean hillside at the top of his lungs to overcome the decibel level of the enemy’s lies in his mind. When we’re in a valley, we may have to do the same thing. The enemy’s lies: “you’ll never get better, you’ll never see a change, this financial crisis will be the end of you, your children will never return, everybody is against me, etc.” can be overwhelming. The lies may seem even louder in a valley because of the echo against the mountains. But, they are the same old stupid lies our enemy tries to use over and over. Fortunately for us as believers, we have the truth of God’s Word to remind us of who we are and whose we are.
So, maybe we could begin our climb from the “valley of the shadow” by yelling one of those promises— “THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD.” Go ahead, yell it multiple times. Let it be the echo of your heart. Yell it until you feel a shift in your spirit. (Read James 4:7-submit yourself to God, resist the enemy, and the enemy has to leave.)
The shift in our spirit will lead us to another truth that will drown out the lies of the enemy: “I SHALL NOT WANT!” An exclamation point must be added, not only on this page, but in our spirit. “Because THE LORD is my shepherd, I shall NOT want!” Notice that David did not mention his circumstances, because the circumstances are irrelevant. David fought many battles, often finding himself in “the valley of the shadow” with his very life being on the line! The truths about The Father and our relationship with Him are just that…TRUTHS…they do not change based on our circumstances. We may feel differently based upon our circumstances, but the truth remains the same: because I am HIS, I shall not lack! Repeat this truth until you feel another shift in your spirit.
Let’s move on…”HE MAKES ME LIE DOWN IN GREEN PASTURES.” The truth that The Father was David’s shepherd, who allowed no lack, led David to “lie down in green pastures.” The Judean region is mostly desert, so to find a green pasture was really a beautiful thing to a shepherd like David. Stop right now and think of a time when it looked like “desert” was all around you; a time when not only were you in a valley, but the valley was also a desert. Then, remember that at some point you got out of the desert valley and headed toward a green pasture. Our Father has promised to do that for all of us. (Read Jeremiah 29:11, Ephesians 3:20) He didn’t promise that we wouldn’t experience desert valleys (Read John 16:33) but He promised to lead us through and out! Declare it out loud now…HE MAKES ME LIE DOWN IN GREEN PASTURES!
This posture leads our minds into remembrance of even more beautiful truths about our relationship with HIM. David declared, “HE LEADS ME BESIDE STILL WATERS.” Obviously, David used the sheep/shepherd reference because it was so familiar to him. The sheep MUST be led by a good shepherd who will lead them away from raging waters, where they could easily drown, beside still waters of safety instead. Throughout His Word, Our Father has offered to lead and guide us. It’s up to us to allow Him to lead. (Read Proverbs 3:5-7) So, let’s remind ourselves that He will lead and guide us toward the still waters for which our soul longs. Speaking of “soul,” let’s continue…
“HE RESTORES MY SOUL!” By the very act of declaring this powerful truth of his past, David was paving the way for restoration for his soul in the present. Undoubtedly, David thought of the many times he had been in the “valley of the shadow” while being reminded that The Father had brought him out every time. Sometimes our circumstances haven’t really changed that much, but our soul; that is, our mind, will, and emotions, have sunk to such depths in the valley that the need for restoration is urgent. That’s when we should do like David and begin to remind ourselves of past restoration and declare boldly our restoration at present. Confidently declare, “HE RESTORES MY SOUL, HE RESTORES MY SOUL, HE RESTORES MY SOUL….”
Then, David begins to reassure himself, “He leads me in the path of righteousness, for His name sake….” David knew that his Shepherd was going to lead him in the right path. On his own he may end up in a worse situation, but with the guidance of his Good Shepherd, he’ll be led out of the valley. We have to rely on Him, too. We should continually ask Him to guide us from where we find ourselves and trust that He will lead us out of the valley.
So far, David has been talking to himself…. and the Father has been listening. When, all of a sudden, (drum roll please) David began to speak directly to The Father. Once David had reminded himself of the promises of his Father and how faithful his Father had been to him by declaring these truths boldly, it seems as though David was then ushered into the very presence of the Father! (Read Hebrews 4:16) He began speaking directly to him, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear NO EVIL, because YOU are with me!” He was looking in the face of his Father. Let’s visit that scene. He went from declaring truths, from a place of desperation, until he found himself in the presence of the Father—even speaking directly to Him! I believe David was overcome with God’s presence in a tangible way. He became so bold, fearless, “more than a conqueror,” declaring that he now feared NO EVIL! (Read Romans 8:31-39).
Why didn’t he fear evil? Because He had acknowledged, in the presence of the Lord, “Lord, you are with me, your rod and your staff, they comfort me!” The rod and the staff were tools of the shepherd; the staff to pull the sheep back into the fold and the rod to beat the predators away. The tools of the Good Shepherd, even if they were used to pull by the neck or beat something away, were COMFORT to David. In the presence of the Lord, there is nothing but truth and love. All things will be used for the good…all kinds of “tools” will bring comfort. (Read Romans 8:28). I can only imagine (sounds like a good song title) David’s posture at this point—perhaps at the feet of His Father humbly basking in His goodness and glory!
Then, David went to yet another level. He could see his future by declaring, “You prepare a table before me…in the presence of my enemies!” David likely had more enemies that we do. I don’t think many people want to kill me, but many were always threatening David’s life! But, because he was now in the presence of His Father, he could see that the Father had already prepared a way for his future!
Believe it or not, we are in the same standing with the Father as David was. In fact, we are even in the same standing as Jesus Christ. (Read Romans 8:17). Hard to believe, huh? But it is true. So, we can rest assured that our Father has prepared a table before us in the presence of our enemies.
All of this caused David to bask in His Goodness. “MY CUP RUNNETH OVER,” declared David. He could not contain any more goodness; he was full and overflowing. That sounds like a good place to be. That kind of overflow will certainly fill a desert valley up to the level of a green pasture!!!
After David had been in the presence of the Lord, the bottom line was this: “SURELY—GOODNESS AND MERCY SHALL FOLLOW ME ALL THE DAYS OF MY LIFE AND I WILL DWELL IN THE HOUSE OF THE LORD FOREVER!! “ Oh my, it can’t get better than that! Surely…for certain…unequivocally! After being with the Lord, David is once again the giant killer for which he was known! He knew for certain that he would get through the valley of the shadow, that good things and God’s mercy would follow him ALL the days of his life, and he’s reminded that he would live with the Lord through eternity!
The great news is that we can declare this as well. (Read Romans 2:11-16). He doesn’t treat us differently. SURELY—GOODNESS AND MERCY SHALL FOLLOW ME ALL THE DAYS OF MY LIFE AND I WILL DWELL IN THE HOUSE OF THE LORD FOREVER!
- Begin to declare the attributes of God and His promises to you. Repeat them audibly and listen to them sink into your soul. Realize that God is listening to you as you declare these truths.
- Rinse and repeat. Continue until you feel the shift.
- Step boldly into God’s presence and begin speaking directly to Him.
- Experience His presence.
- Rest assured in your present…and your future.
- Step on out of the valley of the shadow!