The Valley of the Shadow seems like a very dangerous place. I remember camping in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming as a newly wed. There was not another soul for miles around. We found a little valley way high up in the mountains and at night you could hear a cougar scream or at least my mind kept playing cougar tapes–so much that I required my husband to hold the outhouse door open. As I tried to sleep that night all I could do was repeat Psalm 23 and I kept thinking about the Valley of the Shadow of Death and I wondered why I was camping in it.
Most of us go up and down with our emotions all the time and if you have lived a few decades on this earth you know what it is to “be in the Valley.” When I was a kid and I read the 23rd Psalm, the “Valley of the Shadow of Death was such an ominous and scary thought that I wondered to myself who wants to repeat a Psalm about dying? Many people find comfort in Psalm 23 when someone dies, so I am not saying it’s inappropriate–just that there is more to dying than giving up physical life–for starters there is dying spiritually.
Dying spiritually and being spiritually dead are two different things. Spiritual death is when we lose all desire to love. Dying spiritually, on the other hand, actually brings resurrection and new life. It matters what we die to–dying to love kills us spiritually, while dying to self allows the Shepherd to heal us. Now I realize there are a thousand ways to die–or imagine you are dying and many of them happen while you are still alive. This is why we need the Shepherd–we need Him to guide us through all of our dark valleys.
So what does it mean for Little Red to go through the Valley of the Shadow of Death and be rescued by the Shepherd?
She’s been neglected, but the Shepherd supplies her needs (Philippians 4:19).
She’s been used and abused until the Shepherd shows her He invented boundaries (Genesis 1:4).
She’s been called hurtful names, but the Shepherd calls her “the apple of His eye” (Zechariah 2:8).
She’s been lied to and cruelly gaslighted, but the Shepherd says He is the Truth and honors all truth (John 14:6).
She’s been judged for her mistakes, but the Shepherd says neither do I condemn you (John 8:11).
She’s been excluded and ostracized from others, but the Shepherd says He will never leave her alone (Hebrews 13:5).
She’s wondered if her enemies will prevail, but the Shepherd serves her a meal in front of her enemies (Psalm 23:5).
The Valley might seem dark and scary, but when we are traveling with the Good Shepherd we have nothing to fear–not from spiritually dying or physically dying. We have a Shepherd whose love is stronger than even physical death (Romans 8:38).
The love of the Good Shepherd takes away our fears (1 John 4:8). No weapon formed against you will prosper (Isaiah 54:17). And because the Good Shepherd is also the Light (John 8:12), darkness isn’t dark to Him, so we never need to feel scared or alone again.
Rest well Little Reds, the Good Shepherd is watching over you.