The Lord is my shepherd; I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.
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.
Like me, you are most likely very familiar with this scripture, but I’ve realized that the more I am familiar with a scripture the less weight it tends to carry in my heart. I wonder if that’s the same for you as well.
So let’s dive a little deeper, and once again feel the weight of it. —I think that this passage is so familiar because it’s used as a “feel-good” scripture in so many circles and if you grew up in church this was a very common Sunday School scripture. The words in this passage bring this picture of cloud gazing with Jesus, in perfectly cut grass, next to the echoes of a peaceful river. This isn’t a bad picture to have, but let me ask, when you have that picture in your mind, what caused you to feel peace?…. Was it the peaceful water, the freshly cut vibrant green grass, and the beautiful blue sky over head? Or was it the comforting presence of Lord? — if you’re anything like me, you probably had to take a heart check, once again realizing that your sinful heart are prone to focus more on the creation than the Creator. The best part about this picture is not the beautiful scenery but the presence of our Savior! Likewise, the best day in your life is not good because of what the world has to offer, but because of Who’s with you!
The first line in this poetic passage says it best, “The Lord is my shepherd; I lack nothing.” —When the Lord is with us, we have EVERYTHING we need!
Now, Let me put a different picture in your head…. you are walking down a deep valley with consuming darkness, clueless of where you are going, hearing echoes of insects crawling on the walls around you and the crunching of what sounds like bones under your feet. BUT in the midst of this valley Jesus is leading and lighting the way and He’s protecting you, ready to fend off whatever danger come your way. —What brings you a sense of peace in this picture? I’d imagine it wasn’t the consuming darkness, or the terrifying sounds, but the reassuring presence of the Lord.
Because trials and valleys are dark, they draw us closer to the Light. David shows this not just in the story of this poem but in its words. Go read the passage again and see if you can find it! There is a clear difference in how David talks about/to God when he writes about the mountain tops in life and the valleys in life. When David talks about the Lord in the green pastures he uses the pronoun “He.” In the dark valley he uses the pronoun “you.” —He goes from talking about the Lord, to TALKING TO THE LORD! The idea of a dark valley caused David to talk to the Lord directly. —I don’t know about you, but I find this extremely powerful. Nothing causes me to turn to the Lord in prayer more than trials and valleys. This is because the darkest valleys make the Light of the World shine brighter than ever before! Remember that the Lord is with you on the mountain tops and the valleys! No matter how great the green pastures and how peaceful the waters—our Joy can never be found in them, because the dark valleys will come. Our Joy must be found in the Lord!
Thank you for for being my consuming light, for always being with me—in the good and the bad. Help me to find my joy not only in your creation but in you as the Creator of every good and perfect gift. Thank you for allowing the valleys in my life to cause me to see you more clearly and to love you more deeply. Thank you for leading me even when I don’t want to be led, and protecting me even when I don’t think I need protection!
Thank you for being our Good Shepherd, Refuge, and Hope!
In you alone I find refuge and peace.
In Jesus’ name,