Psalm 23 (NLT) The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.
Walking with my husband and fur babies, I become lost in my thoughts. Conversation fades to only the sound of our footsteps on the pavement. I thank God for this wonderful man and soul mate who He created to “do” life with me. I honestly do not know what I would be or where without his precious love. The details of life like a heavy wet blanket burdening my thoughts laying heavy in my soul. Life is hard. Not all the time, but if totally honest most of the time. I don’t understand all the details and how God is able to wrap them into something good and tie a little bow on top like His Word says He will do. The Lord has been good to me. He has been more than gracious to our family. Yet, still there are many details that do not add up. Parts of our life not prospering as the Word of God indicates they would. I know it is a season and just as I get tired during this walk, I will not stop until I round the corner and make it home – it is not my intent to stop in the valley but rather find peace here.
The Word of God tells us that Jesus is the Good Shepherd. I am quite certain that He is exactly who Psalm 23 promises Him to be but that doesn’t make climbing the mountain any easier or the valley filled with light on any given days. The Power of the Shepherd in my life is manifested by my willingness to trust and obey His Leading in my life. It is not human nature to give up our way and follow anyone like sheep. Sheep are not known for their intelligence. In fact, just the opposite. Living in dependency to the one who leads, guides and directs them completely is the marked trait of such livestock. They are meek and cowardice. Desiring only basic care and daily needs met if they leave the flock they are immediately lost and fall victim to the environment.
John 10:9-11 (NLT) Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep.”
“The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.” The confidence of sheep in the shepherd is the quality that produces loyalty. Do you believe that God is good? Do you believe that He provides all we need? Do you believe that Jesus came to give you a rich and satisfying life? Do you desire to walk in His Ways and follow the Lord (the Good Shepherd) all the days of your life? Do you believe that the Goodness of God is for the land of the living? See all of these qualities and attributes of God are valid and true. However, I do not believe them, I will not experience them as I will not follow the Lord very far.
Hope is belief in the unseen. Faith is for those things that seem impossible in the natural. Yet we try to use faith and hope for things that we can have, see and do rather than applying them to the principle of prosperity that is not humanly possible. The kind of prosperity that comes as our soul prospers. Why? Dependency is not a characteristic embraced by our pride. To totally surrender the care of our life to Jesus Christ is way more difficult than one may think. The valley is like swimming so far out in the ocean you cannot see the beach you left and too far away to see the shore on the horizon. The valley requires us to totally depend on God and trust Him. It is not a bad place yet not a favorable condition. Are you in the valley today? The place of walking, waiting and watching. I am. I will admit it so that we both can find purpose and meaning in this dark, low lying place.
“Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies.”
In complete honesty, it feels like most of our days are in the valleys if you think about it. I know that the day I decided to follow Jesus Christ for the rest of my life a bright red target was placed on my life by the enemy. Thank God that the bright red blood of Jesus Christ makes it null and void as He assumes the role of Good Shepherd. I must learn to trust Him more. I must learn to follow Him when I cannot see where we are going. I must learn to seek Him when He doesn’t feel like enough. When my hands are reaching for other things, may I not stop grasping until I fully embrace Christ.
The valley is dark but Jesus is the Light of the World. His deepest desire is to live, move and exist in us so that our life becomes glorious light that reflects His Amazing and Unstoppable Love. I cannot share something that I have no experienced. My words are not convincing until I become confident in the words I am speaking. The rod of God’s Word leads me to obedience. He doesn’t punish us anymore because the Grace offered by Jesus Christ is enough. More than enough, now I can be confident in God’s Love and Care for me as His Child. Do I believe God loves me? Do I believe that He is a Good Father with only my best interest in mind? Do I believe that if I seek Him wholeheartedly His Plan will become the destination of my life? If not, I need more of God’s Word to fill the voids that lead to willful disobedience so I am encouraged to live an obedient life. And let’s be clear as I pause for a moment, obedience to the Lord is not a religious effort. It is not strict adherence to rules, regulations, doctrines or guidelines. It is absolute and total submission to Jesus Christ in a loving and committed relationship. His Spirit will lead, guide and direct us in life. Along with the rod, the Good Shepherd has a staff. Again, the Word of God is like that staff. It rescues us with the hook when losing our way. His Word equips us. It feeds our spirit. He guides us with that staff through the valley to the place of promise. Oh Lord, let me fully embrace your Word and your Will for my life today.
Enemies are a real threat to sheep who become separated or isolated from the flock. It is vitally important to maintain our relationship and close proximity to Jesus Christ. We need Him every day not just on those days that are particularly difficult. Many years ago, I had a dream. At first, I would have called it a nightmare. But not anymore, my family was visiting a state park. Our youngest became separated from us. I found her in the presence of the enemy. He kept changing forms and becoming the face of many ordinary people before taking form. I could smell the putrid burning of flesh. I prayed and cried out to the Lord. The enemy pushed my daughter into my arms unharmed. Then in the blink of an eye, I could feel his hot breath on my neck as he seethed, “If it wasn’t for the Blood of Jesus I would kill them (my children) all.” I believe that the Blood of Jesus is our protection from the enemy’s attack and assault against our life. I also believe that Jesus doesn’t stop there but actually flaunts His Love, Care and Protection of us in front of him. To trust the Lord with our life and our loves is one thing, but to live confidently in that place means we do not have to fight the enemy but simply live in the Presence of Jesus Christ who won the battle already. The enemy is powerless in my life because I believe Jesus won it all.
John 1:1-5 (NLT) In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.
The Good Shepherd is the Light of the World. He is the Word who came wrapped in flesh to share God’s Love Story for us. He did just that. When He died on the Cross, He removed everything that separated us from God. He opened a river of overflowing grace that rushes through every valley in our life whether led there or wandered to that place. God is with us. He will never leave us or forsake us. He goes before us to make our way straight. He fills in valleys. He levels mountains. He unbends curves and smooths out rough spots for us. (Isaiah 40:3-5) He comes in behind us pursuing us, wanting us and desiring our love more than anything else. Most importantly, Jesus lives in us. He is our Source of Life. Jesus prospers us and shapes our life so that it becomes a rich and satisfying one as He promised. Many times, it is in the valleys of life that this is discovered because it is those dark times and places that the Light of His Love becomes our desire. The places where disappointment and unmet expectation lead to dissatisfaction which is contrary to the Promise. We must learn to believe and depend on Jesus Christ to have the life that never leads to disappointment. A life of faith and hope. A life that learns to prosper and rejoice in the valley just as much as in the field of harvest or on the mountaintop of worship. We have the opportunity to live in the Presence of God. The one true Almighty God who loves us more than life and proved it by laying down the life of His One and Only Son, Jesus. We learn to trust the Lord in the valley.
We also experience new hunger and thirst in the valleys of life. When the details of our life do not add up to the Word of God or the vision in our heart, desperation sets in. Our desire increase for the One who makes all things new and gives life to new creation. If you have experienced the Light of His Love just once, you are hooked. It is impossible to not want more of His Love, Joy, Peace and every other good and perfect gift coming from Heaven. Trust is the only way to accomplish a true relationship with God because it is evidence of the reality of our confidence. I will not trust anyone I lack confidence in. Struggles and challenges give us the opportunity to trust the Lord just a little bit more. In our desperation, we finally cry out to the Lord who immediately comes rushing in to save His Sheep from despair or destruction. (Isaiah 41:17-20) God is leading to a place of full satisfaction. (Isaiah 49:10-12) It is on the other side of the valley.
Psalm 27:12-13 (NLT) Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living. Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.
I don’t think it is possible to ignore the depth of the valley or see through its darkness in our natural abilities. I believe that the only way to successfully navigate the deepest valleys in life is with the Light of His Love and our confident belief that Jesus is a Good Shepherd. Life is a series of peaks and valleys that keep us leaning, trusting and depending on the Lord with good reason. We have a hope worth having that cannot be seen and only obtained by faith characterized by absolute confidence in God’s Saving Grace. It must believe that the Blood of Jesus is enough to overcome sin, death and the grave. We must hold tight to our hope without wavering making it the anchor for our soul. (Hebrews 6:19) What better place than in the valley when we cannot see or even find the bottom yet confidently trust the Lord. He provides in the valley. He protects in the valley. He even will prosper us in the valley. The Lord does it for those who love the Shepherd, know His Voice and follow Him to the other side. I am really not sure where the Lord is leading me or my family today. What I do know is: Jesus loves me. He died for me. He will lead me to the other side. I will have a rich and satisfying life. He is the Good Shepherd. I have all that I need to achieve what He has called me to do and prosper as my soul prospers. Amen. And Amen.
John 10:14 (NLT) “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me…”