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Life's Darkest Valleys

Tom Pennington Psalm 23:4


Well, I invite you to turn with me to Psalm 23. We all have certain things that we enjoy doing as families. My family and I love the mountains. We especially love, on the West Coast, Yosemite, and on the East Coast we love the Great Smoky Mountains. One of the remarkable things about the mountains is the incredible difference that there is between the mountain tops and the valleys. There are differences in flora and fauna. In some cases even differences in weather, each having its own sort of microclimate. In the valley the air can be still and heavy and in the summertime, very hot. On the other hand, typically on the peaks there is a consistent breeze. There's also a great difference in the feel, the sort of emotional atmosphere between the low points in the valleys and the mountain peaks. Often the peaks are sunlit and bright and cheery, while the valleys, even on a sunny afternoon, appear somewhat dark and foreboding. That's why David, in Psalm 23, under the influence of the Spirit of God, compares the hard and difficult times of our lives to deep dark valleys.

Let's read this Psalm again, Psalm 23, a Psalm of David. You follow along as I read these familiar words,

The Lord is my shepherd
I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I 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 have anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows.
Surely goodness and steadfast love will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

As we noted, to David, who spent his early years shepherding his father's sheep, the best image that he could come up with to capture the goodness and grace of God in the lives of those who belong to Him is the image of a shepherd. It's remarkable, really, when you look at this Psalm because David doesn't ask for anything. Instead, he expresses his confidence in God's goodness, both in this life and in the life to come. He rests in the confidence that because God, because Yahweh, ultimately because Jesus our Lord, is our Shepherd King, He will always care for us and we will lack nothing that we need.

Now David builds this Psalm on the metaphor of the Shepherd King, a common picture in the ancient Near East, and here's how he develops his thought. First, he identifies the nature of our relationship to God in the first part of verse 1 and then in the rest of the Psalm he explains the practical benefits of that relationship. So far then, we have seen How to Think About God, One Powerful Illustration Our Relationship with Him. It's simply stated in verse 1, "Yahweh is my shepherd," and, of course, the New Testament tells us that our Shepherd King came into the world, He's Jesus Christ. Hebrews 13 refers to Christ as, "the great Shepherd of the sheep, So, understand then that when we read this line, "The Lord is my shepherd," in New Testament terms we have been taught to say, "Jesus is my shepherd." Now that's the illustration. What a shepherd is to his sheep, Jesus is to each of us.

Now, the second part of the Psalm, and the rest of the Psalm, is all about then, in light of that relationship, what to expect from God. There are six practical benefits of our relationship with Him. The first verse gives us a summary of those benefits. "The Lord is my shepherd," therefore, "I shall not want." "I shall not lack." A general summary statement. Because my Shepherd King is Yahweh, I simply will not lack. And then verses 2 through 6 give us some of the specific benefits that are ours because of who our Shepherd is.

In fact, in the rest of this Psalm David identifies six practical benefits that we will never lack. So far we've considered three of these benefits. We talked about the fact that God extends to us, as our shepherd, provision. Verse 2, "He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters." He provides for us everything that He determines we need, both spiritually and physically. This is what a shepherd does.

Secondly, we noted that He provides restoration. "He restores my soul." Last time we learned what that means. It means that He causes us to return when we stray from Him into sin. Just like a shepherd goes and finds a straying lamb and brings it back; that's exactly what Jesus does. If you belong to Him, you cannot, you will not, stray very far. He will bring you back, and if He doesn't bring you back, if you stubbornly resist, then you will in fact find that there's no hope for you except stern discipline and ultimately even the Lord taking your life. So, He restores us when we stray from Him into sin. Also, as part of that restoration He recovers us from both physical and spiritual sickness. "He restores our soul." The third aspect of that is, He revives the spirit of the weary and the exhausted. That's restoration.

Also, last time we discovered a third benefit that is ours and that is direction. Verse 3 says, "He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake," and specifically, we learned what that means is He guides us by His providence in our circumstances. Just as a shepherd leads his sheep through certain paths, He directs our lives down the paths He chooses, but it also means that He guides us by His word and His spirit into the right patterns of thinking and living. He directs us, both in the circumstances of life and in the paths of right living as well. So that's where we left off last time.

Now, tonight we come to a fourth practical benefit because God is our shepherd and that is protection. Look at verse 4, "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff they comfort me." Now clearly, just a first reading, the theme of this verse is the protection that we enjoy as the sheep of the Lord Jesus Christ. However, even through a cursory reading of the verse, you get a basic understanding of what you enjoy Christ. There's so much richness here and that richness only yields to careful study and meditation.

Since David wrote these words 3,000 years ago they have been the source of profound comfort to the people of God. So let's dig into this verse together and see if we can mine its comforts for ourselves. Protection. As David unfolds this concept of protection he begins by underscoring for us the reality of life's dark valleys. Notice just the first part of the verse, "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death." Now, first of all, we need to understand what the Psalmist is talking about here. The Hebrew word translated "shadow of death" has been the source of a great deal of debate. It occurs about 20 times in the Old Testament. There are two options that are offered for what it means. It's possible that it is a compound Hebrew word, that is, two separate Hebrew words brought together into one word. If so, it means "death's shadow" as it's translated, essentially, in our New American Standard. If this is true, the emphasis is upon either the threat of death or death itself, but of course it could also refer to other dark valleys.

It's also possible that this Hebrew word comes from a different root and means a deep dark valley. In this case David means all of the dark valleys of life, including, of course, the darkest for us as human beings, death itself. Regardless, the word speaks of a difficult, dangerous, threatening circumstance. For example, it's used in Job 28:3 of the shaft of a mine. In Job 10:21 it describes the fearful darkness of Hades. In Jeremiah 2:6 it's the darkness of a wild, uninhabited desert.

So in the end, whichever option you choose, you really end up in the same place. So let me summarize it this way, in verse 4 David is talking about all of life's dark valleys, including both the threat and the process of death. It's every dark valley that we encounter in life and in death.

Now, David's point is that dark valleys will come in every life. With sheep it was not a question if they would pass through dark valleys, but when and how often. If you have ever visited Israel you understand this, because of the topography of the land. Much of the land, especially in Judea and the Judean wilderness where David kept his sheep, it is desert wilderness. Here's what you need to picture when you think of the Judean wilderness, not exactly an attractive, winsome land. It's, notice, divided by these dark valleys and wadis. It's hard, dry, ground and so when it rains the water largely runs off and that runoff creates wadis. A wadi is simply the channel that is cut through the terrain by heavy rain runoff. Sometimes you'll come to wadis that are dry, the bottom of the wadi is entirely dry. Other times there's a consistent flow of water, even when it's not raining.

Let me show you some of the wadis from a little different perspective. You can see that there are steep walls and high-pitched hills and deep dark crevices. This is typical of what the Psalmist is describing when he talks about these deep dark valleys. By the way, here is a picture of a sheepfold out in that wilderness area. You can see how the shepherd has walled his sheep in so he can protect them from predators and danger. Here's another end of that same sort of wadi and you can see the steepness of the cliffs and how precarious and dangerous, and how dark, and in some cases threatening, the bottom of those wadis can be. As one natural history describes it, "The sheep districts in Palestine consist of wide open downs reft here and there by deep ravines."

Because these wadis divide up the land, invariably, when the shepherd wants to move his sheep from one pasture to another, he's forced to cross a wadi. Sometimes he even uses it as the path itself. Because of the steep canyon walls down at the bottom, most of the day the wadis are shrouded in darkness and shadows and there's simply no way that such circumstances can be avoided if you're a sheep living in Palestine. It's not a question of if there will be dark valleys, it's a question of when and how often. Gerald Wilson writes, "In search of ever elusive grass and water, the flock must pass at times into and through the deep rugged wadis, dry streambeds cut through the semi desert hills by the seasonal torrents unleashed by the winter rains. The air in the bottom of these wadis is heavy with the rising heat of the day and the canyon depths are swathed in dark shadows as the rising cliff walls exclude the distant sun. At the moment of crossing the wadi floor, the pleasant scenes of green pastures and still waters seem far removed -there is no grass or water, the heat can be oppressive, and the whole flock must struggle up the steep sides of the canyon to resume its journey toward the next feeding place."

Now those deep dark canyons in the land of Israel hold a couple of problems for sheep. One of them imagined and the other real. First of all, they feel, sheep in this circumstance feel threatened and feel they are in danger, even though there may actually be no danger, because of the deep, dark shadows, and because of the fact that they are unaccustomed to it on a daily basis, they're always a place of perceived danger. Isn't that true for us as well? Spurgeon writes, "The worst evils of life are those which do not exist, except in our imagination. If we had no troubles but real troubles we should not have a tenth part of our present sorrows. We feel a thousand deaths in fearing one."

But the danger is not merely perceived. In these dark canyons there was also real danger for sheep. It was in canyons like this that bandits and thieves and even rustlers hide in the shadows and steal the sheep in order to eat them or to sell them. Lurking in the cool darkness of the canyon walls there are often predators looking for such easy prey as sheep and in the rainy season of the year there are even, there's the danger that distant storms can fill the wadis with a sudden flash flood. So it's not surprising that in such circumstances sheep feel insecure and threatened.

Now, you don't have to be a theologian to get David's spiritual point in the first half of verse 4. Just as is true with actual sheep, you and I cannot escape the reality that dark valleys will come in every life. We will not spend all our lives in the rest and ease of verse 2. There will also be times of fear and danger and trouble. Job put it this way, in Job 5:7, "For man is born for trouble, as sparks fly upward." James tells us, we will "encounter various trials." I look around this room, and I was thinking about this as we were singing tonight and I was preparing to preach, I know of some of the valleys represented in this room tonight. I've prayed with you and for you and for your family, and I'm sure there are many others I don't know about. It's just a reality of life.

For your encouragement, let me tell you it's always been this way with the godly, just as it has been with all men. Think just for a moment about a few biblical characters. Take Adam and Eve, the first couple to be saved by grace. They had to deal with one of their children murdering the other. Joseph, sold by his brothers into slavery, he was lied about, he was accused of rape falsely, and he was wrongly imprisoned for years. Moses. Moses was forced to leave what had been his home and his family for 40 years. He lost his position in the royal family, potentially the next Pharaoh, and was reduced instead to the lowest occupation at the time, sheep herding. His life was threatened. He had a major problem with his wife over the issue of circumcision. He spent 40 years in the wilderness with 2,000,000 complaining unbelievers to care for.

Think about David. Saul treated David unjustly, accusing him of disloyalty, of trying to supplant his throne, even attempting to kill David. David had a rebellious son who sought to kill him. Who chased him from his home, who chased him from his throne, and forced him to live for years in exile. He had to fight in various wars. Daniel. Daniel was taken from his homeland and family when he was a teenager. He was forced to live in slavery and to adopt an entirely different culture. His enemies attempted to kill him and almost succeeded except for the miraculous intervention of an angel God sent. In his old age enemies overran the country in which he had lived and served his entire life.

Come to the New Testament and you find the same is true. Paul was certainly no stranger to the dark valleys of life. Look at 2 Corinthians 11, 2 Corinthians 11:23. As he compares himself in his ministry to the false teachers in Corinth, he says, let me tell you what I've been through. Verse 23 of 2 Corinthians 11,

in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I've spent in the deep. I've been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.

It's not exactly a prosperity gospel. Paul would not be a poster child for the prosperity gospel.

Even our Lord Jesus experienced trials. In Luke 22:28 He said to His disciples, "You are those who stood by Me in my trials." Now, in context I think Jesus is referring primarily to the trials that He endured in His ministry, but those were not all the trials Jesus faced in this life. Think about the trials that Jesus faced during His earthly life here. His father died when He was young. He had to spend His life working to lead and care for His younger siblings. His brothers thought He was crazy. Because of His unique birth He was accused His entire life of being illegitimate. He experienced the death of a close friend, Lazarus. He was constantly unfairly attacked and ridiculed. His closest friends abandoned Him in the time of His greatest need. His enemies tried repeatedly to catch Him in some inconsistency so that they could imprison Him or even put Him to death. In the greatest travesty of justice in human history, He was falsely accused of a capital offense and was executed. You understand what this means? There's no question in your mind, I'm sure, that the Father loved His one and only unique Son, and yet, even though the Father loved His Son supremely, He did not choose to protect Him from the troubles and the dark valleys of human life.

Folks, it will be no different for us, no different. Dark valleys will come in every life and this is true whether you're a believer or whether you're an unbeliever. No one in this life is exempt from troubles. Likely everyone here, or almost everyone here tonight, is in the middle of a valley of some kind in your life. The question is not, can I avoid the valleys, the question is, when I face them, when I walk through them, will I do it alone or with Christ? That's the question.

So David reminds us, dark valleys will come in every life, but he makes another point about these valleys, and that is these dark valleys are our shepherd's plan. Don't forget the connection between this verse and the one before it. Look again at Psalm 23. In verse 3 David reminded us that our Shepherd guides us in the right paths and He does so for His own name's sake. You understand what that means? It means that our Shepherd in His great wisdom chooses to lead us through the dark valleys. He leads us in the right paths and the right paths include the dark valleys. That's simply a reality. The deep dark valleys in your life are no less the right paths for you than the sunlit uplands. As Derek Kidner remarks, "This takes the sting out of any ordeal." Listen, I can promise you, not only are valleys inevitable in this life, in every life, but the valleys in which you find yourself today, or may find yourself tomorrow, are part of your loving Shepherd's right paths for you.

What possible purpose could our Shepherd have in leading us through deep dark valleys? Well, James, you remember in James 1:3, refers to trials as, "the testing of your faith." In other words, God intends trials for our spiritual good. God tests us to prove the genuineness of our faith, to us and others, not to Him, He knows it's genuine, and to refine our faith, as it were, silver or gold. Listen, if you want to benefit from trials you have to remember that God intends to use the trial for your spiritual good. Just like Romans 8:28 says, "He causes all things," the good days and the bad days, "to work together for our good."

So in the first half of this magnificent verse then David teaches us about the reality of life's dark valleys. Dark valleys are inevitable in every life and they are part of the Shepherd's plan for us. In the second half of the verse he brings us to the response to life's dark valleys. The response, first of all, when you come to a dark valley, don't be afraid, verse 4, "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil." Even in the midst of threatening circumstances David says he will not be afraid of evil. Now, by evil he doesn't mean afraid of wickedness. He meant that he was not afraid of being harmed in that circumstance.

Harmed of, by what? Well, don't be afraid of people. Psalm 3:6 says, "I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people who have set themselves against me round about." An army of people. Psalm 27:1, David says, "The Lord is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the defense of my life; whom shall I dread?" Don't be afraid of people. There's no one that can overcome your Shepherd, that can overpower your Shepherd.

Don't be afraid of any circumstance that comes in this life. Look at Psalm 46. Psalm 46:1 says,

God is our refuge [a place we find to hide,] and strength. [I love that. In the midst of our trouble, God is, He doesn't just give us strength, He is our strength.] A very present help [He's present in trouble. He's a very present, He's very present in trouble. He's not only present, He's a help,] in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride.

He is talking here about a major earthquake that unleashes a tsunami that changes the face of the nation of Israel. He says, if the worst natural disaster comes, we don't have to fear. But he goes on later in this Psalm to talk about man-made disasters, desolations, verse 9, wars. Those are man-made disasters. You see, this Psalm covers every potential issue you can encounter in life. It speaks both of natural disasters, both personal, the word cancer, the word heart disease, whatever it might be, as well as national or large cataclysmic disasters in nature and also man-made disasters, from the personal violence of one individual on another to world war three. You don't have to fear. You don't have to fear because "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble."

You also don't have to fear the ultimate deep dark valley, death. Although this verse is not exclusively about death, death is certainly included. Without question, the process of death is life's deepest, darkest valley. It is the thing people fear most of all. In fact, Hebrews records that man lives in fear, in slavery to the fear of death, all his life. It's interesting because there are contexts in which the Hebrew word translated "shadow of death" contains in it the dominant idea of death and so here David, I think, is saying to us, you don't need to fear any deep dark valley in life, and you don't need to fear the darkest valley, death itself. Spurgeon writes, "This unspeakably delightful verse has been sung on many a dying bed and has helped to make the dark valley bright countless times. Observe that it is not walking in the valley, but through the valley. Death is not the house but the porch, not the goal but the passage to it." You don't have to fear. This is what the New Testament makes clear to us.

Look at John, John 11. When Jesus encounters Martha, He says this to her in verse 25, "I am the resurrection and the life."

I AM the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never

Let me ask you tonight, do you believe this? Do you believe that your Savior has conquered death and that death cannot hold you, just as it could not hold Him? Do you believe that you will never truly die, that you will close your eyes in this life and awaken in the next moment in the presence of your Lord? It's what Jesus promised, so the question is, does He tell the truth or not?

Romans 8, look at Romans 8; I love this section of Scripture. I look forward to getting there in the distant future. Just being honest. Romans 8:38, "For I am convinced," Paul says, "that neither death, nor" anything that can happen in life, verse 39, "will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." He says I know, I know that nothing that can come at me in this life, however dark the Valley may be, and nothing about death, can separate me from the love of God that comes to me in Jesus Christ our Lord. Turn over to 1 Corinthians 15, this familiar chapter on the resurrection. Look at verse 56. After quoting the Old Testament, he says, verse 56,

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory, [that is, over death] through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Listen, you don't have to be afraid of people. You don't have to be afraid of any circumstance that will come at you in this life. You don't have to be afraid of death itself.

There's a second response that we should have to life's dark valleys. Not only don't be afraid, but remind yourself of Christ's presence and this is why we're not afraid. Here is the saint's great comfort in the time of trouble. The only reason we don't fear in the dark valleys, with all of the risk and all of the threats and all of the potential danger, is the constant presence of our Shepherd with us. Derek Kidner writes, "The shepherd is no longer ahead to lead, but alongside to escort." I love that. He's no longer up in front of the flock leading, now he's next to the sheep walking it through the deep dark valley. Verse 4 says, "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me." Notice, for the first time in the Psalm, David is no longer speaking about God, but to God, "You are with me." This is our great comfort. Psalm 16:8, the Psalmist says, "I have set the Lord continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken." It's a messianic Psalm, Jesus took this comfort in His own life, but it's for us as well.

Isaiah 43:2, when God was describing His protection of His people, He says, "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you." That isn't a promise that we will never encounter difficulty. We just went through a litany of difficulties that the godly have faced; it means we will be protected from everything that the Father intends to protect us from. We don't have to fear. We see this in the example of Jesus; He found comfort here. In John 16:32 He was talking to his disciples on the night of His betrayal, and He says, "Behold an hour is coming, and has already come, for you to be scattered, each to his own home, and to leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me." Jesus found His comfort, in the darkest valley of His life, in the ever present comfort of His Father.

We also have been promised this by our Lord. It wasn't just something He practiced, it's something He promised us. In Matthew 28:20, as He gives the great commission to His followers He says, wherever there are believers who are making disciples and baptizing and teaching them to observe what I have commanded you, wherever that's going on, "I am with you always, even to the end of the age." He said it to Paul in Acts 18:10, "I am with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you." Again, Paul faced times when God allowed, in His own providence, Paul to face harm, but only when He permitted and only for His purposes. He was completely in charge.

Hebrews 13:5, dealing with the issue of not coveting more stuff, he says, "Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have." Well, how can I be content with what I have? Well, think about what you have, "for He Himself has said, 'I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.'" That's God's promise to you, Christian, never, ever. In life's deepest and darkest valleys there are legitimate reasons for fear. Listen, whatever your circumstances right now, if you're in one of life's valleys I am sure that there are real reasons for you to be afraid, however, those reasons for fear flee in the presence of our Shepherd. He is with you.

By the way, notice you don't have to feel like the Lord is present with you. A lot of Christians keep looking to sort of feel His presence. Well, I just don't feel like He's with me. Listen, we live by faith and not by sight. That means we take Him at His word. Has He promised, I will never, ever leave you, I will never forsake you? In the dark valleys, You are with me? Absolutely. So does He keep His word or doesn't He? Are you going to believe Him or are you going to call Him a liar? If you're in Christ there has never been a moment in your life, nor will there ever be a moment in the future, when you are alone in the midst of the valley.

There's another response that we should have to life's dark valleys, not only don't be afraid, remind yourself of Christ presence, but thirdly, find comfort in God's protecting power. Verse 4 says, "Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me." I love that. Our Shepherd is not only with us, He's armed. The two Hebrew words used for rod and staff have very similar meanings and are sometimes difficult to distinguish from each other, but together these two words describe the two tools of the shepherd.

The first Hebrew word translated rod describes primarily a short two foot club with a sort of enlarged head. They would find a stick and where it embedded into the larger trunk of the tree and where there was a knob, and that would become the club. Usually it was hung from the belt and its primary purpose was defending the sheep. It was a weapon that the Shepherd could use to defend himself and his sheep. It's what David used. And David here reminds himself that he found comfort when he reminded himself that there was no danger too great, no threat too large, for his Shepherd.

What does it mean when it says, "You comfort me"? It means God used this truth to preserve in David a sense of confidence and security in his heart and that's what this truth will do for you as well. If you will rehearse the truths of this verse, these things will become for you a way that your confidence and security can be preserved in your heart, and it's where we find our comfort. I mean, what devil, what demon, what man, can thwart the purposes of our great Shepherd? What sinful individual, what gang, what government, what empire can attack us successfully if He doesn't allow it? What circumstance, what illness, what disease, what plague can hurt us if it's not already in His plan? Christian, find comfort in God's protecting power.

There's one other way that we should respond to life's dark valleys. We should find comfort in God's direction. Verse 4 says, "Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me." The shepherd's staff was more of what we picture when we think of a shepherd. It was a long stick with either a fork or a crook at its end and the staff was used primarily for three purposes. It was to direct each sheep individually by pressing against its side gently and changing its direction. It was to keep the sheep in line, to keep them from wandering, and when they wandered off it was to rescue them from danger, to pull sheep from thickets and pit and ravines.

David found comfort in the knowledge that his Shepherd would direct him through the deep, dark alley. He found comfort that if he was driven by fear in the midst of one of those valleys, he couldn't wander from the path. He found comfort that whatever he may encounter in the midst of the valley, his Shepherd was more than able to rescue him. We must find our comfort in these truths as well,

You know, I think at the bottom line David is urging us here to find our comfort in the knowledge of our Shepherd's sovereignty over our circumstances. There's nothing we will encounter that He can't deal with. There's no greater comfort than that. As one puritan put it, "Omnipotent love must fail before one of His sheep can perish." Let me read that again, "Omnipotent love must fail before one of His sheep can perish, for, says Christ, 'None shall pluck My sheep out of My hand.'" I can promise you that your Shepherd will choose to take you through deep dark valleys in this life, but you don't need to be afraid because He will always be with you, and you can rest in confidence that it's one of His right paths for you.

Now, I want you to look back at Psalm 23 for one more comfort from this verse. Notice how David puts it, "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death." I love that. Our Shepherd, whether it's the trials of this life, or whether it's death itself, our Shepherd doesn't allow us to stay forever in the valley. He always leads us through the deepest valleys so that eventually we can graze in green pastures and lie down content beside quiet waters. Sometimes that respite comes in this life, other times it comes only in His presence forever. Regardless, here's the comfort. We walk through the valleys, they are only temporary, but the green pastures and the quiet waters are forever.

Let's pray together. Our Father, thank You for this magnificent Psalm. Thank You for what You put David through that enabled him to see and to understand and to wrestle with these things, and for the product of his meditation to then be made available to us. Father, we thank You for the rich gift this Psalm is, we pray that You would help us to apply it to our hearts. Father, there are people in this room tonight and others who will listen to this message who are in the midst of deep dark valleys. May these words, may these truths, be a source of comfort and security and peace to their souls. Father, remind us, may it not be a platitude, but may we really understand and believe that even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we don't have to be afraid because You are with us. We pray in Jesus's name, amen.