“The strength is in the struggle”
It’s been several months since I have written any poetry. I suppose it’s the study of David’s life from I Samuel and Psalm 23 that’s given me such a longing for the presence of the Shepherd. This week I want to look at how the Shepherd guides us through the valley of the shadow of death. “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me.” The Psalm now turns from third person to first person. Now it is personal. The first half of the psalm is the precious characteristics of the Shepherd. He is my provider, he is my guide, he is my caregiver, he is the restorer of my soul and now he leads me to righteousness through the valleys. David’s writes this psalm during a time when he may have been looking back at the times Saul was pursuing him to kill him. Saul was consumed with finding David and killing him. From I Samuel 23:13-15, we learn that “David stayed in the wilderness in the strongholds, and remained in the hill country in the wilderness of Ziph. And Saul sought him every day, but God did not deliver him into his hand.”(from the NAS version)
Many times we find David retreat to the hills where he had taken care of his father’s sheep. In one story, we find that he even worked as a shepherd for Nabal herding and taking care of his 3000 sheep. For a look at David’s story of Nabal and Abigail go to I Samuel 25. Psalms 23 many theologians believe came from David’s experiences in these wilderness periods. When I go back and connect the dots in God’s Word, it amazes me how we can continue to see new things everyday from the Word of God. Searching out the truths hidden, surely helps us to see better how we ought to walk and how to get through our dark and difficult times.
So many friends and family are going through the valley of the shadow right now. These valley expeditions are part of the development of our very souls. The strength is in the struggle. The story is told of how the caterpillar becomes a butterfly. The strength he finds in his wings comes from the wrestling and struggling while emerging out of the cocoon. Such a parallel of a baby Christian becoming a mature, discerning and faithful servant. None of us magically get to the mature faith without going through the valley of the shadow of death. While it seems the “shadows” will overtake us and the sounds of the enemy are shouting, “if the shepherd really loved you, he wouldn’t take you here” it is the ever watchful care of the Shepherd that is closer than a breath away. He never leaves us.
In order to get to the mountain tops, the Shepherd has to take the sheep in the summer to the high country. To get there, he takes them through the path of the valley. It is there that the intimacy of one on one with the Shepherd is felt. It is there that the world doesn’t matter. It is there that they feel his presence the most. The shepherd will find greener pastures to feed upon. The shepherd will find cool refreshing water to saturate every cell of their body. It is there that we walk ever so close to Him. It sounds too good on paper, doesn’t it? But in reality, it is a painful journey. The rocks are jagged, the hills are steep, and the dangers of losing everything is real. It is there that the pests find their way into the thickening coats of the sheep before shearing. Oh, but the care of the good shepherd is never far away, always watching, always clearing the path, always examining his sheep for those pests. This is just how our good shepherd cares for us during these valleys of the shadow. As hard as it can be, that’s when we really need to lean into Him. Trust His hand, feed on His Word, and rest in His providential care.
- Know that He loves you with an everlasting love.
- Know that it is His way that develops us into His image.
- Know that there is strength in the struggle”.
Refreshed in Your Presence Lord
How I long to be refreshed
In your presence I am blessed
Your Spirit calms my soul’
I know you are in control
Freely my heart I surrender
I breathe in all your splendor
In your presence I find rest
There is peace to pass all tests
In your presence there is courage
You provide in the trials on any stage
In your presence the weak are strong
You are my God In you I belong
Your strength gives me a song
To keep me refresh all the day long.
How I long to be refreshed
In your presence I am blessed.
As a side note, I encourage you to get Philip Kellers’ classic book. It is a short easy read. You can find it at Lifeway or on christianbookdistributors.com. Not only is it well written and insightful but the pictures in the hard back copy are beautiful. You will want to get a couple of copies for gifts.
For Fun: See if you remember this from your childhood.
And for meditation, listen to Shane & Shane while you pray through Psalm 23.
Praying for all our fellow treaders,