Even when I must walk through the darkest valley, I fear no danger, for you are with me; your rod and your staff reassure me.
—Psalm 23:4 NET
A church friend of ours built a vacation home on a lovely lake in Maine. It’s a spectacular house designed to host friends and family. What struck me during our stay last summer was the tall window over the bed in our room. Once the sun set, the moon, stars, silvery water and silhouetted trees created a magical, twinkling display inside that window frame.
Peering into darkness can be fun; walking in it isn’t always so pleasant. Years ago, I got hurt walking through a dark, “haunted house” with college friends. What was hoped to be fun turned out to be pretty frightening. A two-inch nail sticking straight out of a wall scraped my arm badly, resulting in a tetanus shot. I recovered just fine, but it reminds me that walking in dark places can be painful.
Walking in the dark tests our courage, challenges our equilibrium. For many of us, our natural response is to fear a dark, unknown passageway. Our bodies stay alert, no matter the time of day or night. Dark valleys highlight the fact that we’re vulnerable and not in control.
So what makes it okay to walk through a dark valley? The presence of the Shepherd. He remains faithfully present in our valleys, with unwavering loyalty. He’s ready to defend us (using His rod), to rescue and guide us (with His staff). He knows the way through the valley, and He’s not about to desert us. “I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us” (Romans 8:38-39 MSG).
What do we do if we fall short on the Confidence Scale? We can reach for Jesus’ hand. Jesus struggled in prayer in a dark garden. He felt so strongly about His dark valley that He begged the Father three times to provide a way out. By expressing His deep longings and messy emotions to the Father, Jesus received strength to continue walking through the valley. In the end, He experienced the truth that runs deeper than feeling safe; He learned that He is secure forever in the Father’s love.
There is no time in our lives when God is not actively loving us.*
Dark valleys are a blessing. Really. They remind us that life is not found in a daily pursuit of pleasure or significance. In the dark, we feel acutely our heart’s longings, and we realize in profounder ways that the source of our satisfaction remains the same as it is in the light—Yahweh, our Good Shepherd.
ACTION: Are you walking through a valley right now? What are your hopes for this time? Fears? Talk with the Father about these, including messy emotions. Do you see evidence of the Shepherd’s rod or staff at work in your life? How might Jesus be inviting you to experience security with Him even when walking through a dark valley?
Let Sarah Kroger’s “The Detour” encourage you today. Click on the link to listen.
*Discovering Our Spiritual Identity, Trevor Hudson, p. 91