The Darkest Valley

As I was studying for this next post working our way through Psalm 23, I happened to read it in the New Living Translation and saw this beloved Psalm in a deeper way. I memorized this passage in the KJV which is how most of us know it. Click here to take a look at the full NLT version. Today we are focusing on verse 4.

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.

I want to take a moment and compare the version in my head to the NLT translation. “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,” One of the things I love about the KJV is that it is so poetic, especially the Psalms. Poetry oftentimes causes us to feel deep feelings. This is certainly true of this particular Psalm. However, the NLT causes me to not just feel but THINK about the passage and how it applies to me. “The valley of the shadow of death” always puts me in mind of impending death, whether my own or someone close to me; which is probably one of the reasons this psalm is used often for funerals. Look at how the NLT translates it, “even when I walk through the darkest valley.” This, to me, goes much deeper. My darkest valley could definately include facing death, but it could also cover so much more. Our “darkest valley” will look different for each of us. It could be financial ruin, a disability, caring for a loved one who no longer knows who you are, divorce, a wayward child, addiction, and so many other things. We each walk through deep dark valleys that can be overwhelming especially when they seem to stretch on for years and it feels like you are all alone. Read on to see the promise God gives us.

“I will not be afraid, for You are close beside me.”

Through our darkest valley, no matter how hard or how long that valley is, we don’t have to fear because He is close beside us the whole way, the entire time; even when we don’t FEEL Him, we can trust He hasn’t, nor will He ever leave us.

Do you believe that?

I do believe it however, there are times when the valley is the darkest and I need to be reminded. I am sure that you are just as human as I am so let me remind you, He is close beside you, He will NEVER leave you. He is walking with you even, and especially in the darkest places.

Your rod and your staff
    protect and comfort me.

A shepherd’s rod represents and does several things. First, it’s a symbol of authority. Our Shepherd is sovereign and has ALL authority. We can rest in the fact that He is in control of ALL things. Secondly, it is used for discipline. Our Shepherd loves us enough to discipline us when we have strayed and are in disobedience. Unfortunately, sometimes the valleys we find ourselves in, are of our own making, however our Shepherd loves us enough to discipline us and bring us back into right relationship with Him. Lastly, the rod is used to defend. The shepherd uses his rod to ward off predators who threaten his flock; the same way our Shepherd protects us when the enemy attacks.

A shepherd’s staff is a unique tool. It’s a long slender stick, often with a hook on the end. The staff is used most often to draw the sheep close together and keep them near to the shepherd. It’s also used to guide the sheep along a new path or down a difficult or dangerous route. It is truly a comfort to know that our Shepherd wants to keep us close and guides us when the path becomes treacherous and difficult.

My prayer for you today is that you take the time to draw close to THE Shepherd and trust Him to guide you through whatever valley you are facing.

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