Through The Valley
I had an article release with RELEVANT yesterday.
It’s titled, 5 Signs You May Have A Wrong View Of God. You can check it out by clicking HERE.
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 at 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.
Jason Clark is a writer, speaker and lead communicator at A Family Story ministries. His mission is to encourage sons and daughters to grow sure in the love of an always-good heavenly Father. He and his wife, Karen, live in North Carolina with their three children.
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Thanks, I read Ashley’s question and had the same thought she did. I appreciate your needed reminder about the goodness of God.
Wooooooo! 😀 I liked it, it’s like sharing in the sufferings of Christ is amazing because there’s hope in it, there’s goodness in it. It’s not in what the suffering is but what God is using it for, our good. To strengthen our hope and perseverance. The pain is not the focus but Jesus Christ is. He ultimately brings what is best and brings life in areas where there was only death. So it’s what lays on the other side of that pain hope and joy. It’s why Paul said our light and momentary struggles are producing an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. It’s that eternal glory that love in our Lord that we focus it’s just sometimes the pain brings our focus and reveals that ultimate reality of that hope even more. So yes, pain or suffering is only good because it is short lived and it ultimately leads to resurrection in Christ!
Alex, I like how you think! “it’s amazing because there is hope in it” I love that.
Thanks for the input!
Thank you so much for responding to me and taking the time to expand on this point. I appreciate that very much!
I have to say that while this view of God is very tempting for me to adopt, I can’t quite wrap my head around it. John Piper teaches that God ordains suffering, even plans it for our own good and His glory. I believe this because the only flip-side to it is me devoting myself to a god who has no control over my suffering. Maybe I am looking at it from an extreme “either/or” point of view. I can sometimes be a black & white thinker.
I admit this view of God that I hold doesn’t exactly lead me into intimacy with him, but that’s because my heart isn’t right. I’m a defeatist and always waiting for the crap to hit the fan. I don’t blame God for my suffering even though I believe he ordains it all. I just blame myself for being spiritually inadequate to handle it. And then I ask God to help strengthen me while I’m in that valley so I CAN handle it. Now that I’m writing about it, I realize how absurd it sounds, but no more absurd than what you propose… that he doesn’t cause the suffering, he is only goodness. If God is who you say he is, then I can’t imagine a need for hell. Your view seems incomplete. And I admit, my view seems very doom & gloom. Who wants to trust a God like mine? But what’s the alternative?
You have brilliantly articulated the tension regarding the Christian faith. I have, and continue to wrestle through the questions you pose.
I believe the gospel is simple. My foundational approach is that Jesus is perfect theology. Any question raised in scripture or life has to be measured in Christ. I believe Christ revealed that God is first and foremost love. That every other aspect of His nature is discovered and has its origin in love.
I admit wholeheartedly that I have a simple theology just as I believe the gospel is simple – God is Love and His love is always good.
While that is a simple statement, there is tension in that thought, it takes radical faith to believe it.
I just wrote an article before this one entitled “If God Is Good…” you may want to check it out as I touch on what you wrote about. That said, my book Prone To Love would be a fun read for you. If you are interested, I’ll send it to you as a gift.
Just send me your address, email@example.com
I love the journey you are on and I pray great joy and freedom as you seek after the heart of God.