“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.” (Psalm 23:4)
The darkest valley I’ve walked through to date was a season of anxiety and depression. I was in the throes of ministry and motherhood and was blindsided by the spiritual attack. Needless to say, there were warning signs I should have heeded, but the intensity of the darkness that surrounded my mind, heart, and soul were more than I could bear at times. I stepped away from ministry, and for several months battled crippling anxiety that threatened to steal my faith many times over. The days ran together, and most of what I can remember from that season of the “valley of the shadow of death” was what I was able to write down in my journal as I poured my heart out like water before the Lord.
The Shadow that Threatens
In my lowest moments it seemed impossible to feel the nearness of God, much less trust that He was truly with me and still guiding me. I remember reading Psalm 23 in one of my lowest moments and stopping at the word “shadow” in verse four. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.…” I pressed in further, for it felt as if darkness and despair of death were clinging fiercely to my soul. The shadow of a sword can’t hurt us, a sermon I listened to stated. The shadow of the enemy might frighten our souls, but ultimately, it is just a shadow. We must look beyond the shadow to the light, clinging ever more fiercely to our God who never leaves us in the darkness without hope. Even though we walk through “shadows” in life, we can know that the Comforter will soon shine light in the darkness. The darker the day, the brighter the light will be.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one to naturally find great joy in the dark valleys. My natural tendency is to complain, to worry, to doubt. I’d much rather exit the valley than learn a lesson in it, but God is patient with us, always desiring to lead us into a deeper understanding of His grace, mercy, care, and provision. I listened to many podcasts during those low moments. Even when my eyes couldn’t read and my heart couldn’t articulate how it felt, I relied on the words and faith of others to carry me through. One day I heard Jill Briscoe explain that greenest grass actually grows in the darkest valleys. It’s not on the mountaintops where we learn the nearness and faithfulness of God, it’s in the valleys in between. Mountaintops certainly hold incredible views, but life is also filled with valleys that hold great treasure as well.
Treasures of Darkness
The darkest valleys hold even greater abundance than we could ever behold if we only experienced the mountaintops. It’s in the dark “valley of the shadow of death” where we learn there is no evil to be feared and the Comforter is always near. It’s also in the dark valley where we get to dine with Jesus “in the presence of our enemies” (Ps. 23:5).
That season of darkness I walked through is one I look back on and see the hand of God guiding me every step of the way. Though I rarely felt His presence, and I frequently doubted His goodness, He faithfully stood by me, and in His perfect timing, He illuminated the shadows that threatened to overcome me.
Isaiah 45:3 tells us this: “I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hoards in secret places, that you may know that it is I, the LORD, the God of Israel, who call you by your name.” Treasures of darkness are the hope we can cling to when we traverse through the valleys of this life. Though they may seem prolonged forever, we hope in God’s unfailing grace. There’s a valley in between each mountaintop. Rather than try to avoid the valleys, we can walk through them knowing God is with us and for us, and he has a greater purpose in them. Both the valleys and the mountaintops are vital to a deeper understanding of His faithfulness and character.
Don’t miss the blessings of the valleys by searching for the mountaintops. The Shepherd is with you in the darkness, drawing you to the light. Step into the green grass, holding the Shepherd’s promises in your heart, knowing that in the darkest valley the greenest grass grows.