Walking In the Valleys
By Dr. Tom Walker
Psalms 23 says, “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 for ever.”
Notice in verse 4 how it states, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.” In Israel, I am told there is literally a place called “the Shadow of Death.” They say it is a steep, dark, and narrow canyon where the sun only reaches it when it is directly overhead. David may have led his sheep to this valley.
The Bible many times refers to bad times as valleys. We like the mountain tops, where we are walking in high cotton spiritually, but oftentimes we despair and complain when we must go through a valley. Your spiritual maturity is revealed in how you handle the bad times that come your way in life. One songwriter wrote, “If you can sing, when others say, there is no use of singing, then I know that you know my Savior.”
Where there are mountains, it stands to reason there will be valleys. A person cannot always live on the mountain. Sooner or later, we must leave the mountain. When we descend from the mountain, many times we find ourselves in a valley (a low place in life).
There are so many valleys in life through which we must pass. I am not going to attempt to list them all, but here are a few through which we must walk.
The Valley of Uncertainty
We do not know what tomorrow holds. It may bring prosperity or poverty, health or sickness, triumphs or troubles, glad times or heartaches, peaceful times or troublesome times. In a time of uncertainty, it is best to not worry about tomorrow. Christ addressed the problem of worry regarding tomorrow in Matthew 6. Jesus said in Matthew 6:34, “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” He is telling us that we have enough problems to deal with every day without being consumed by the uncertainties of tomorrow. The Christian must live by faith in the Lord.
The Valley of Suffering
We need to realize when we are called upon to suffer, that God is still on the throne and is aware of our circumstances. Satan cannot touch you without permission from Almighty God (example of Job). God did allow the Devil to bring trouble into Job’s life, but at the same time, God put restrictions on what He allowed Satan to do to Job. God will not allow more to happen to us than we can bear through His grace but will make a way of escape that we can bear whatever (1 Cor. 10:13). There is a danger of becoming faint and weak spiritually in our sufferings. The opposite should happen. We should submit to suffering knowing that it can make us stronger in our relationship to and fellowship with God. It should motivate us to look to the Lord and love Him more than ever before.
The Valley of Opposition
One of the most difficult valleys to face in life is the opposition of others as you seek to serve the Lord. Satan will make sure there is opposition to what you are doing because he wants you to stop serving the Lord. As a young pastor, this is something I had a difficult time dealing with in my first ministry. You would think if you are serving the Lord with your whole heart that people would get in behind you and allow you to lead the flock of God.
Christ, the perfect Son of God, although he was right in all he did and said, faced opposition from the time he entered into His public ministry. That hostility ended in the cruel, substitutionary death of Christ on the cross. If Jesus faced opposition in doing the Father’s will, how can we expect to avoid hostility as we obey God? We certainly are not better than our Savior; He was opposed and there will be those who will stand against us today.
When you find yourself in the Valley of Opposition, just remember the Lord has promised to fight your battles. I Samuel 17:47 says, “The battle is the Lord’s.” God will defend those who serve Him and obey Him.
The Valley of Bereavement
One of the darkest valleys you will ever walkthrough will be the loss of a loved one or a very close friend. These bodies we are in are not designed to live forever as they are at present. The Bible says, “It is appointed unto man once to die…”(Heb.9:27).
I have seen many wives who have had to give up their husbands to death. There is a dark side to death in that it robs us of those we love, but if they know Christ as their Savior when it happens, they enter into a glorious, heavenly realm that is far beyond anything they ever imagined while on the earth. In that situation, what keeps us going is the fact there will be a glad reunion day somewhere in Heaven. We will know our loved ones in that wonderful place. One old song says, “Won’t it be wonderful there, having no burdens to bear, gloriously singing with heart bells all ringing, oh won’t it be wonderful there.” To aid us in our bereavement, God has given us the Comforter, the Holy Ghost (John 14:16).
The Valley of Misunderstanding
One of the most heart-wrenching experiences in life is when someone misunderstands what we say or what our motives and intentions are. To misunderstand is to not understand someone or something correctly. None of us communicate perfectly. The way to avoid misunderstandings is to love one another. Romans 12:10 says, “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another.”
Consider Proverbs 25:8-11: “Go not forth hastily to strive, lest thou know not what to do in the end thereof, when thy neighbour hath put thee to shame. Debate thy cause with thy neighbour himself; and discover not a secret to another: Lest he that heareth it put thee to shame, and thine infamy turn not away. A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.”
People need to work harder at having a clearer understanding of those around them. It would help us to have a “second-mile” mentality. Matthew 5:41 introduces us to that concept. It says, “And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.”
Where there is misunderstanding there will be a misrepresentation. When someone misjudges your motives and your objectives, it is a difficult valley to walk through. We all want people to think well of us, but if someone does not understand us, they may say things about us that are not accurate or true, thus damaging our standing in the eyes of others. Whatever you do, don’t rush in your evaluation of others. You may foster misunderstanding and cause much harm to someone else.
The Valley of the Shadow of Death
Psalm 23:4 says, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.” The lyrics of an old song say, “I don’t have to cross Jordan alone, Jesus died for my sins to atone. When the darkness I see, He’ll be waiting for me, I won’t have to cross Jordan alone.” When it comes time for the born-again child of God to die physically, he or she will not be alone. The psalmist was so assured of his eternal destiny that he said, “And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
A shadow may look ominous and threatening, but it has no capacity or power to do any harm at all. Death is like a shadow to the child of God, it does look threatening, but it can do us no harm. It cannot interrupt or disengage our relationship with our Heavenly Father.
None of us look forward to physical death, but when believers come to that time we can sing, “When I come to the river at the ending of the day when the last winds of sorrow have blown, there’ll be somebody waiting to show me the way, I won’t have to cross Jordan alone.”
When you come to the valleys of life, the Lord Jesus is the Lily of the Valley. He will bring you through whatever you face.