Through The Valley
I had an article release with RELEVANT yesterday.
In the comments section, I was asked by a reader named Ashley to elaborate on sign number 4 – the idea that suffering doesn’t equate with holiness. I suggested that the cross wasn’t Jesus focus, it wasn’t His destination. He was looking to the joy and power of the resurrection. Death may be a part of the journey, but it is never the point, resurrection life is what this Christian life is about.
Ashley, while the article below doesn’t fully address your question, it does introduce the foundational thought that led me to the conclusions I made in the RELEVANT article. I have posted it just for you 🙂 and anyone else who would find it helpful.
Through The Valley
David was a man after God’s own heart. He both started and finished well. His life was a study in mountaintops and valleys.
His story was one of miracles and misses, faith and failure. David experienced some crushing disappointments but somehow never succumbed. He ended well—better than well—he handed increase to the next generation.
I am convinced there is only one reason David succeeded where so many before and after have failed. David did not believe his circumstances were the measuring stick of God’s love. On the contrary, he was convinced that God only had goodness and love for him all the days of his life. And this faith is what defined him. This faith pleased God.
“Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life.”
It’s a declaration David makes at the end of his famous Psalm 23 (verse 6). I think this line reveals how David saw God and the core conviction through which every life experience was filtered. It begins with a proclamation of God as the leader and provider of his life.
“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want” (Psalm 23:1).
David declares who God is, a Shepherd, the One he follows. He continues in the same vein.
“He (God) makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (Psalm 23:2-3).
David lets us know that it is God who is leading him and that God is only leading him in good things. Then David’s journey takes a desperate turn, only David isn’t desperate. Notice how the language shifts in this next verse.
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil” (Psalm 23:4).
I love this verse because it says something so profound about what David knew regarding God’s love. “God does not lead me into the valley of the shadow of death.”
While David has no problem acknowledging that valleys exist and that there are enemies in those valleys, he gives God no credit for the valley season. David’s faith regarding God’s always-good love for him is mind-boggling. He could follow God’s goodness, experience a valley, and never blame God. Astounding!
Now here is where it gets even better. Once David finds himself in the valley, the language shifts again:
I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows (Psalm 23:4-5).
I love these verses! David’s journey once again becomes a testament of who God is in his life. And get this: in the valley the language shifts from the early declaration of He to the first person intimacy of You. David not only knew the valley was not God’s heart for him, but it was this revelation that set him free to know God in a much more intimate way.
I am convinced that David had a greater awareness of God’s presence in the valley because he was never offended at God while in the valley. The valley is a place of intimate access to our heavenly Father and all His presence offers.
Somehow, David understood a New Testament revelation better than many of us now living on the other side of the cross. The revelation? God is love and He is always good. While valleys of the shadow of death exist, God does not create them—His heart for us is never death.
The last verse of Psalm 23 shows us that David truly knew the nature of God: “Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Ps. 23:6).
David was convinced that every plan God had for him was good— “surely goodness and love.” How else does David make it through the valley, through all of his trials and still believe at the end of his life? David was able to maintain a heart after God’s presence because he knew God’s love was always good, that He never oscillates. Because of this, he was able to hurdle the disappointments of the valley seasons in life.
David experienced the valley, but the valley was never God’s heart for him. Death is never the focus with God. He is always and only about resurrection.
Many years after David, Jesus modeled Psalm 23 perfectly when He faced a cross focused on the joy of the resurrection. “Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross” (Heb. 12:2).
Like David, I am learning to believe that the valley of the shadow of death is not my Father’s heart for me. He only has goodness and love.
Like Jesus, I am learning to look ahead to the sustaining joy found in the resurrection. When it comes to my Father, I am convinced that death is never the point. He is always about a future and a hope. He is always about the resurrection.