In Your Valley…
Are you walking through a valley right now?
I have gone through some deep valleys in my life. When my dad died. When I suffered from depression, and at a few other times.
What is your valley?
Depression? Maybe you care for a sick spouse? Maybe you are the sick spouse? Maybe you lost a child, or a parent. Maybe you lost your job or your house, or perhaps your husband cheated on you.
You know your valley. Often, it feels lonely and scary there doesn’t it?
Lately, I find myself reading Psalm 23 every few days. I find great comfort in it. Today I find myself focused on Verse 4.
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me”
It is very real to me, as I am currently walking through my own a valley of the shadow of death – Cancer. Though mine has not been as bad as some, I have endured suffering through this valley. I have certainly faced the reality of my own mortality.
That is not a not a word we like.
Yet that is the word that we must associate with the “Valley of the shadow of death.”
When we are confronted with suffering from a serious illness, or stillbirth, or death, or terror, or depression, or what have you, it is our nature to ask, “Why?”
“What is the point?”
I certainly asked why at the time of my cancer diagnosis.
Perhaps you have asked why as well.
In seeking an answer to the “why” of suffering, our unbelieving culture, it seems, often simply seeks to remove the suffering and replace it with pleasure. Just look around. To dull our ourselves, what do many people do? When things get hard, many of us turn to things like sex, alcohol, porn, drugs, gluttony, and other sinful behaviors thinking that if it helps us feel better in the moment, it must be good for us. The mantra of the unbelieving world is that if it feels good, do it! So many try to dull their suffering in this way, and sadly even a lot of Christians fall into this trap.
Then there are those who say we that we have no control over what happens to us. They say, that all we can do is choose how we will respond to our circumstances, no matter how bad they are. We should do our best to stay positive and remain emotionally strong. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Pull up our socks and go with the flow. Perhaps this a better response than diving head first into a bottle of whiskey or porn, but is this the right one? To endure in our own strength? Is that what we are to do in the valley?
Though we can ask God, “Why?” — David certainly asked “why” of the Lord throughout the Psalms — he does not have to give us a reason for our suffering. Perhaps your personal suffering is the Lord’s loving discipline, as Hebrews 12 teaches. But then again, your suffering may not be his discipline at all. We can look to the account of Job who did no wrong yet still endured great suffering. Our suffering may simply be a product of this broken world, permitted by the Lord for reasons unknown to us. So, though we may never know the reason for our suffering, we know from Psalm 23 that he is always with us in our pain. And we also know through verses like Romans 8:28 that that he will use our suffering for our ultimate good, and to bring glory to Himself.
Sounds good, but to be frank, I wish that the Lord’s people would never suffer.
I wish I didn’t have to suffer.
I wish you didn’t have to suffer.
I sometimes wish that the prosperity teachers were correct and that we could have health and wealth and an easy life. Doesn’t that sound nice? But the Lord has never promised that we won’t suffer. In fact, the Lord promises the opposite… In Philippians 1, Paul writing of his own sufferings in chains states in verse 29,
“For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him,”
It is granted to us…to suffer…
That puts things into a different perspective doesn’t it? We GET TO suffer for Christ.
The context of this verse is speaking of persecution for the gospel, but that also applies to all of our suffering…child loss, cancer, depression or whatever your pain is… our suffering, endured for Christ in the strength he provides, brings him glory.
And when we are in our valley, whatever our valley is, He is near.
He promises it!
When David writes,”You are with me” in Psalm 23:4, that is actually Christ saying, “I am with you.”
Christ says,“In your darkest valley, in your suffering, in your pain, I am with you, and I will comfort you, you need not fear any evil.” I can attest to that, through both the Word and my own experience of walking through the valley of the shadow of death, when my dad died, when I had depression, and even now as I walk the valley with cancer.
When you are walking through the valley, don’t rely on your own strength. Don’t seek to mask the pain. Seek the shepherd, Jesus Christ… In your suffering. In your valley. He is there. He has promised to be. There is nothing to fear.
No matter what your suffering is.