Thankfulness According to Psalm 23 ~ The Valley of the Shadow of Death

“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.” ~ Psalm 23:4

I had a difficult time with this one.

When one thinks of “the valley of the shadow of death,” the usual first response isn’t, “Yes! I’m thankful for that!!”

I have to tell you, that certainly wasn’t my first response….or my second…or my fifth…or my twenty-fifth.

It isn’t a pleasant place.
It’s definitely not a place you’d want to have a picnic or make a habit of visiting or put down roots.

When I imagine this valley, I imagine a dark, cold, isolated place thick with fog that would further impede my vision.
I would want to get away from this place as soon as possible.

I don’t know what David’s valley of the shadow of death looked like.
I gather it was a place of darkness, but what specific traps and snares lay inside it, I don’t know.
I believe the things that were present that would cause him to name this place the “valley of the shadow of death” were unique to David.

I believe we each have this valley to face, but it will look different to each of us.
Sure, there will be some similarities, but different specifics.

I may not recognize David’s, or even yours, but I do, however, know what mine looks like.

I remember the first time I came face-to-face with the reality of my valley of the shadow of death.

I knew it was out there.
I had seen the mists in the distance for some time.
My path had slowly been winding its way downhill. It was so gradual, I almost didn’t notice.

I came around a bend in the road and suddenly found myself staring down into a seemingly endless dark valley.
The very look of it was completely terrifying and shook me to my core.

Surely I had taken a wrong turn that led me to this place.
The paths of righteousness my Shepherd was leading down couldn’t possibly lie through this vast darkness.

My mind retraced my steps, and my feet hadn’t left the path.
This is the way He has chosen for me to walk.

“But that can’t be right!
He must’ve made a mistake!
I shouldn’t be here!
I shouldn’t have to walk through this!
What did I do to deserve this?
This isn’t fair!
I’ve followed Him, and He led me here?!”

All these thoughts and more ran through my mind.

I was completely horrified…
And yet I knew if this was the path He had chosen for me, there was and is a purpose in it.

He placed this valley in my path for a reason.
My Shepherd does nothing by accident or makes a mistake.

There was no question as to the name of this place.
I recognized it immediately.

I knew deep down that this wouldn’t be my end, because my Shepherd had promised He’d take me all the way home…
But there were times it felt that way.

I remember standing frozen with fear and anger as I stared into what lay before me.

Where were those green pastures and still waters now?
This place seemed so foreign.
So wrong.
How would I ever make it through?

How could David say, “I will fear no evil?”
I was paralyzed with fear!

I don’t remember how long I stood that way (though I can tell you it was a while!), but I gradually became aware of a new sensation.
I discovered how David could make such a bold statement….

“For Thou art with me.”

I wasn’t alone!

I had become so absorbed in analyzing every possibility of what could lie in the darkness of my valley that I failed to see my Shepherd.
He stood, waiting to continue leading me.
Contrary to what the darkness wanted me to believe, I wasn’t facing this valley alone.

I’m not going to lie…
This valley is long.
Sometimes it seems it will never end.
Sometimes the feelings of fear and anger at my circumstances sweep over me again.
But all I have to do is scooch up close to my Shepherd and I find comfort from His rod and staff.

He’s protecting me…just like He would in those green pastures.
The scenery around us makes no difference to Him.
He isn’t made uneasy or frightened at what may be lurking around the next corner.

My Shepherd knows this path well.
He’s walked it before and has robbed it of it’s sting.
Now the darkness is nothing but a shadow that holds no power.

I’ve grown closer to my Shepherd because of this valley.
I’ve learned things from Him and about Him that I couldn’t know if my path only followed green pastures and still waters.

It wasn’t instantaneous and it didn’t even happen overnight, but I have become thankful for this place.

I know it goes against our grain to be thankful not only in the midst of, but for unpleasantness, but there are such powerful lessons to be learned in places like these.

Some days, I am not thankful for the fact I have no child in my arms.
Some days, I am angry and resentful that my home is empty of little handprints and voices.
Most days Every day, my heart aches and hurts in ways I can’t put into words.

In spite of it all, I can honestly say that if my situation were different, I wouldn’t know my Shepherd the way I do now.
Had all I’d ever known been the safety of the green pastures, I would never feel the need to be close to Him and see first-hand what lengths He goes to to love and protect me.

I know Him better and feel His love for me more strongly because of this place.
I’m not going to say I won’t be relieved when I’ve passed through and it’s behind me, but I will say I’m glad He chose this path for me.
I’m glad He walks it with me.
He has made me thankful for my valley of the shadow of death.

“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.” ~ Psalm 23:4

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