Our previous discussion focused on the Good Shepherd’s ability to meet all our needs. Now we’ll discuss the safe passage the Good Shepherd provides through life’s valley experiences as He leads you to abundant provision.
I don’t know about you, but 2016 was a very challenging year for me. There were tremendous highs and great lows. Through it all, God remained faithful.
Perhaps you’re feeling at a low point in your life right now and find yourself in the midst of a valley. A valley is a low point or condition. Even the strongest Christians have valley experiences. A valley can leave you depressed, discouraged, discontent, and ready to throw in the towel. You may be in a valley of despair. Maybe your valley is heartbreak, loneliness, uncertainty or brokenness. Perhaps you feel trapped in a habit and it seems as though you’ll never see the light of day. God uses these things to prepare you for what He has planned for you. Jesus can and will see you through.
Know that your Shepherd is with you in green pastures. He’s with you in spite of the doctor’s report. He’s with you when all others forsake you. He’s with you in the midst of stormy seasons. Jesus isn’t a fair-weather friend. He stays committed to you through thick and thin. God promises He’ll never leave or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5), no matter how deep, dark or long the valley.
In Psalm 23:4 the psalmist acknowledges he’s going through the valley of the shadow of death. Why would Jesus allow His people to go through such a thing? The shadow is a distraction meant to throw you off course. How you view the shadow is a matter of perception. Do you perceive the shadow as a threat? Is it something to fear? Or is it evidence of the existence of light? A shadow can’t exist without a light source. Jesus is the light in the valley of the shadow of death. Keep your eye on the Shepherd because only He can provide safe passage to the other side of the valley. Keep walking and remind yourself there’s a greater blessing prepared for you on the other side of what you’re going through. When you find yourself in the depths of a valley, reflect back on all Jesus has already done. Shift your focus from the shadow to the Shepherd. Draw close to Him, keep walking and watch the shadow dissipate in His presence.
Just like David defeated Goliath in a valley, the valley is where you defeat the giants that have been harassing you and hindering your progress. A giant is anything that elicits fear and keeps you from moving forward. The valley is also where you develop a dependency on the Good Shepherd so that when you come out, you won’t squander your money and wind up broke again! When you come out, you’ll know how to conduct yourself on the next job. When you come out, you’ll be a better friend, husband or wife. Notice I said when, not if, because you are coming out. Finally, the valley is where Jesus develops your character and integrity and strengthens you to bear the weight of blessings to come.
You may be facing one of the greatest challenges of your life. I encourage you to look at your problems from God’s viewpoint. He’s showing you what He’s about to do, fix, correct, heal, help you overcome. God is going to show up gloriously. Perhaps not when or how you want, nevertheless, He’s coming to your rescue. The Shepherd’s job is to provide safe passage. Your job is to keep following the Shepherd.
I’ve learned that you don’t know how strong you are and what you’re capable of until you go through a valley experience. The valley is the passageway God uses to deliver you out of your old belief system into a Christ-like mindset. You’ve got to adopt a dogged determination that nothing and no one can stop you from receiving all God has for you. You may feel like you’re never going to make it out of your situation alive. Don’t think for one minute the valley is your final destination. The valley is not a place of permanent residence. Rather, it’s a place of transition that leads to abundant provision. The Bible says in I Corinthians 2:9, “But it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”
Join us next time for the conclusion of the Focus on the Shepherd series with a discussion on “A Table Awaits You.”
Be abundantly blessed!
Rev. Cynthia Jackson