Where there are mountains, there must also be valleys—it’s a simple fact of the created world. The same is true in our spiritual life. To reach the place where God is leading us, we must sometimes traverse “the valley of the shadow of death” (Ps. 23:4).
Spiritual mountaintops are wonderful spots to rest awhile. At such times, we feel close to God and sure of His love. But we get to those high places by toiling through the valley, where we discover His character, the truth of His promises, and our own weakness. There are aspects of the Lord that we see only as we journey though shadow.
God is a jealous shepherd—He wants His followers relying entirely upon Him. He draws us through valleys in order to remove every habit, thought pattern, or external crutch that we use instead of trusting Him. In the low places, those suddenly seem inadequate. We discover whether our faith, courage, and wisdom are self-created or from the Lord.
While walking in valleys is an inevitable part of life, believers aren’t left comfortless. Verse 5 is about having needs met, including the desire to be soothed. Here is the image of a tender shepherd rubbing oil onto an animal’s scraped skin. God promises assurance, healing, and safety, even in hardship.
Believers can shout, “I trust God,” from the mountain because they have learned to live by faith in the valley. Walking in the shadow of evil is difficult and frightening work. But when we surrender to whatever the Lord has to teach us in this dark place, our spirit is quieted and our faith is strengthened.
If a sermon is worth listening to, make it a habit to write down the important points. Writing etches wisdom deeper into your heart and mind, which is where you build a foundation of biblical theology.
Christians cannot afford to let a message wash over their ears and drift away: believers who aren’t listeners may panic upon walking into a spiritual valley. Since they’ve retained very little teaching, their understanding of the Lord will be limited. People with a shaky theological foundation don’t realize: 1) God is upholding them through their difficulty (Isa. 41:10; 2) it has purpose (Rom. 8:28-29); and 3) they must surrender to His work in their life or be set aside—still a believer but useless to the kingdom (Rom. 12:1-2). Consequently, a believer without a solid biblical foundation may seek out counsel from worldly “problem solvers” who offer only temporary release from pain and fear.
David, the psalm’s author, said that he did not fear evil (Ps. 23:4). He knew God. What did he have to be scared of when the One who controls everything was on his side? How could he be stifled by anxiety while in the Spirit’s comforting presence? The writer held God to His promises and God delivered (Ps. 23). But the psalmist had to know those pledges in order to believe that the Lord would keep them.
A spiritual relationship heavy on emotion but light on facts falters in a valley. Believers must know how Scripture applies to life. Unless you have a belief system that can withstand pressure, pain, and criticism, you are at risk. Start building your biblical foundation so it will help you in times of need.