Are You Walking through a Dark Valley?

Psalms 23:1-3 ESV

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
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.”

When I repented of my sins, and I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ, by faith in him, he became my Shepherd, and I became one of his sheep. I was a child at that time, so I didn’t fully comprehend all that it meant for me, but what I understood is that I wanted Jesus in my life, but not just in my life, but I wanted my life to be all about him.

20210426_144842My dad was an abuser who touted Christianity as his faith, but who did not put that faith into practice. He was a legalist, though, in the truest sense of the word, in that he had all these external rules we had to follow that had nothing to do with our relationships with Jesus Christ but only to do with how we appeared on the outside to others.

We had to “go to church” every time the doors were open, pretty much, and we had to go through all the rituals involved in that. And on Sundays we were not allowed to play, but we had to stay dressed up all day. And then there were the five don’ts that we learned: You don’t drink (alcohol, wine, or beer), smoke, play with traditional playing cards, dance, or go to movies.

And so, we grew up with a Pharisee for a father, basically, who abused his family but who made a pretense of Christianity via legalistic rules. So, when I put my faith and trust in Jesus Christ, I wanted to be a real Christian, not a fake one. I didn’t want to go through the motions of religion. I wanted to follow Jesus Christ with my life, to do what he said.

And there I began my journey with Jesus Christ as my Shepherd. And I began to depend on him to teach me his way that he has for my life. And I began to find my comfort and security in him and in his love for me, although again, I was a child living with an abusive father, under the rule of legalism, so it wasn’t “easy street” or “smooth sailing.”

But I learned that I could cry out to Jesus in my suffering and that he was there for me to meet my needs right where I was at that time in my life. God became to me the father I never had. He led me in the right way, the way that was good for me. And he encouraged me, and he strengthened me in my walk of faith, and he gave me purpose and hope and joy.

Psalms 23:4 ESV

“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.”

Wow! I think I must have walked through literally hundreds of those valleys in my lifetime. I wish that I could say that I remained completely faithful to the Lord (my Shepherd) all throughout my life, and that I never once caved to fear, but that I always leaned on the Lord for my support, help, guidance, and strength to get through those valleys.

But, alas, I can’t say that. The valleys that I had to walk through in this life never ended. They weren’t constant, but they were frequent enough. And they kept getting harder and harder, and they were hitting me from multiple sources. And eventually they wore me down, and I went through a low period in my life when I did not depend on the Lord to be my Shepherd.

But you know what a shepherd does when his sheep wander? He goes after them, and that is what the Lord did with me, too. And he did use his rod and his staff to get me back on course, on the path he had prepared for me to take even before he created the world, and even before he formed me in the womb of my mother (Ps 139; Jer 1).

And that did bring comfort to my soul and to my mind and heart, that the Lord my Shepherd sought after me and he brought me back, and then he gave me a new start. And, after some time, he gave me a new assignment which I had never thought of before nor would I have ever considered doing this on my own.

Seventeen years ago, he called me to write down on a “tablet” what he taught me from his Word, and then I was to place it on the internet, so that a herald could run with it. So, I went looking for places on the internet where I could share what he was teaching me. Then, two years later he called me to do this full-time.

Psalms 23:5-6 ESV

“You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.”

My Lord, my Shepherd, Jesus Christ, prepared me my whole life for this ministry. I had to go through those valleys, because they helped to make me who I am. Now, it was never God’s will that I caved, for a time, to all the hits that kept coming against me, but even that he has used to prepare me for what I am doing today.

So, despite the fact that Satan tried to destroy me my whole life, and that he used many different people in my life to do his dirty work in trying to bring me down, and that he partially succeeded for a short period of time in my life in defeating me, the Lord had a plan and a purpose for my life that could not be thwarted by his enemies.

The Lord lifted me out of that valley, and he gave me a firm place to stand, and by his grace, and in his strength and power, I have been standing ever since then, all glory to God! But the hits still come, and I still have enemies coming against me, but the Lord is my strength and my song. He is my life! And my life is being lived for his glory and praise.

He is with me all the time, and he lives within me in the person of the Holy Spirit, and I have a close walk with my Lord, in intimate fellowship with him, where he guides my path each day, and he teaches me what he wants me to write. And then I write what he leads me to say. And he uses it for his purposes and for his glory in the lives of other people.

So, if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, but you are going through a dark valley right now, please know that Jesus can pull you out of that dark valley, and he can give you a firm place to stand. And he will help you to stand and to do what he has called you to do if you will trust him with your life, and if you will submit to his purposes, and if you will do what he says.

The Great Redeemer

Lyrics by Francis Foster, 1915
Music by Samuel W. Beazley, 1915

How I love the great Redeemer
Who is doing so much for me;
With what joy I tell the story
Of the love that makes men free.
Till my earthly life is ended,
I will send songs above,
Then beside the crystal sea
More and more my soul shall be
Praising Jesus and His love.

He has purchased my redemption,
Rolled my burden of sin away,
And is walking on beside me,
Growing dearer day by day.
That is why I sing His praises,
That is why joy is mine,
That is why forevermore
On the everlasting shore
I shall sing of love divine.

Glory be to Him forever!
Endless praises to Christ the Lamb!
He has filled my life with sunshine,
He has made me what I am.
Oh, that everyone would know Him,
Oh, that all would adore!
Oh, that all would trust the love
Of the mighty Friend above
And be His forevermore.

He is everything to me, to me,
He is everything to me,
And everything shall always be;
I will never cease to raise
A song of gladness in His praise;
Here, and in the world above,
My soul shall sing of saving love;
Life and light and joy is He,
The precious Friend who died for me.

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