My mind has been on Psalm 23 for some time now, meditating on all that I have experienced when I’m walking through the dark valleys of life. There are so many valleys, times when nothing seems to be right, when everything is hard, when the unknown is looming like a ghost in a horror story. Sometimes it is very hard to find any light in those valleys and it just seems easier to give up. So many times I’ve hit that wall and had to scratch and claw my way back up from the pit of despair.
I want to reassure you that it’s normal to sometimes feel like the darkness is all there is. Everyone, whether they tell you or not, has been there and found some way to get back to the light and hope again. I’ve been there many times, though not as frequently these past few years. If you’ve been following my writing or read About Me, you might wonder why I say these dark days are not as frequent. I’ve been through a lot, and these days I feel like God has put a platter full of stuff on my salad plate.
All throughout the Bible God has shared with us the stories of those who suffered before us, and the key message is that through it all, He is our hope. He will carry us, He will help us, He will save us, if we cling to Him.
The Psalms are filled with prayers and cries to God for help through so many situations, and those prayers are applicable today. What I find most helpful as I read them is that many of them begin with despair, but end with hope. Psalm 23 is perhaps the most hopeful of them all, in my mind. “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
I didn’t always feel this way. Before accepting Christ as my Lord and Savior I battled through problems on my own and more often than not made things much worse than they were. I’ve learned so much about God and His love by reading the Bible, from “In the beginning, God” on the first page to “Amen” on the last.
Yes, problems will come. Yes, sadness, illness, loss… all those things will come. They are part of life, and we should expect them. The hope we have through Christ is the promise that our suffering will be no more in eternity and our life with Him after this mortal life. Does this mean we won’t have happiness, healing, or whatever else now? No, not at all. God wants us to have all that we need, and He will give us all that we need. But like any loving parent, He may not give us all that we want. That is probably where we struggle the most. We want what we want, and we want it now. That’s what the world around us tells us, that we can and should have everything. But that’s a lie, and if we’re honest with ourselves, whether we believe in Christ or not, we know it’s a lie.
As I think about all the hard times I’ve been through, and the ones I’m traveling through today, I am in awe of how God walked me through each valley and gave me something better than what I had asked for. No, He didn’t return the loved ones I lost. No, He didn’t heal my husband from all the effects of the stroke, and no, He didn’t give me everything I’ve asked for. But He did show me how to cherish the memories, to recognize the blessings, and to be content with where I am today. He showed me how to hope for everything He has planned for me – because that is so much better than anything I could plan for myself.
Whatever you’re facing, however dark that valley may be, call out to God. Whisper a prayer, let the tears fall with no words at all, but tell Him everything you feel. Share your sadness, your grief, your loneliness, your fear – tell Him the things you don’t even tell your best friend. Let Him work in your life, put your trust in Him for the answers to every problem. Do this often, every day, several times a day, every minute if that’s what you need. Cling to Him.
I’ve learned that the closer I am to God, the more I read His Word, the more I pray and the more I listen for His answers, the more hopeful I am. And that hope carries me through every minute of every day. That hope makes every problem, every fear, every disappointment easier to handle. Life will never be without dark valleys, but we don’t have to walk through those valleys alone.
Heavenly Father, carry us. Show us the path through the darkness – give us hope. Today is hard, Lord. We’re afraid. We don’t know what to do next, or how to do it. Our hearts are broken, we’re grieving, we’re in pain, we’re sick, we’re frustrated. We’ve lost our way. Use your rod to fight off the evil that surrounds us, and your staff to pull us closer to you. Rescue us from this, Lord. Help us to trust in You, to lean on You and work Your Will in our lives. We need you, Jesus. Forgive our sins and teach us how to live a life pleasing to you. In Jesus’ Holy Name, Amen.