“Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.” Psalm 23:4a (NLT)
I remember the day the hospice workers walked into my parents’ living room. They were wearing half-smiles — the kind of smiles that let you know they cared but they also knew what was ahead.
Dad was in his recliner, chin resting on his fist, taking it in. I watched him as my eyes blurred with tears, and I whispered to God, I’m not ready for this valley.
That day, Dad started hospice care for congestive heart failure. Together, our family descended into an unavoidable valley that stretched out long. Dad received hospice care for nearly five months until his home-going in September.
Many times during those months, I thought back to my living-room confession: God, I’m not ready for this valley.
We’re never really ready for any kind of heartbreak. We are often unprepared, unsteady and uncertain of God’s will as we descend into our valleys.
That's why we can relate to an Israelite named Gideon. His people had been oppressed by hostile invaders, and one day an angel of the Lord paid Gideon a visit, offering empowering words: “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior” (Judges 6:12, NIV).
Gideon shot back a pointed question: “But if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us?” (Judges 6:13a, NIV).
I love Gideon’s honesty because his question is one many of us have asked: God, if You’re with me, why has this happened?
Life isn't a walk in the park. It's more like a trek through the mountains — on top of the world one minute, in the valley the next. But the same God who gives you the mountaintop view doesn't let you walk alone in the valley.
In Psalm 23, David paints a picture of those valleys, and then he shows us how to endure them. “Even when I walk through the darkest valley,” David wrote, “I will not be afraid” (Psalm 23:4a).
How can we live unafraid? David answers with these six words: “for you are close beside me” (Psalm 23:4a).
This is the with-ness of God, always present, always close. He has never guaranteed that we will avoid valleys, but He guarantees that we won't walk through them alone. God isn’t simply in the valley as a spectator to your life. He is close beside you.
Take a look at Psalm 23. Go ahead, open your Bible. Read verses 1-3, where David speaks about God: “The LORD is my shepherd … he leads me beside peaceful streams … He guides me along right paths” (NLT).
Then notice a shift in verse 4. David descended into the valley, and that’s the exact moment when David stopped talking about God and started talking to Him: “I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me” (emphasis added).
The Lord became very personal right when things got hard. Not in the moment beside still waters but in that sky-darkening moment of dread in the valley.
That’s how it was for me. Looking back on those months with Dad, I’m aware that God was with me in a Psalm 23 way. The valley I dreaded was the exact place where I came to experience God’s presence most.
On this side of heaven, we may never get answers to Gideon’s question: If God is with us, why did this happen?
But in your distress, know this: God is with you. You have a God who willingly chose to enter into your pain by becoming human, and He has pledged His faithful presence to you every step of the way, through every valley, until you meet Him in heaven. He’s not going anywhere.
Lord, help me trust Your promise that You are close beside me — through every heartbreak, illness, hardship and valley. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
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FOR DEEPER STUDY
Matthew 28:20b, “And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (NLT)
How does this verse give you assurance in your valley moments? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.
© 2023 by Jennifer Dukes Lee. All rights reserved.
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