Valleys vs Pits

Pastor preached from Psalm 23 this past Sunday. A psalm many know well.

Take time to read it now… really… read it. If you don’t have a Bible handy, click the Scripture reference above and it will take you to BibleGateway.com.

Because it’s so familiar, read it in more than one Bible version. There are many to choose from on BibleGateway. Let the words soak in.

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Rev. Stephenson reminded us that the Lord is our Shepherd, and for the psalmist to embrace this truth meant he had to embrace his neediness. Embrace the fact he was a dumb sheep, one who needs lots of care and direction.

Sheep without shepherds get in all kinds of trouble.

And I’m struck by the image pastor created, reminding me that following the Shepherd is not all green pastures and quiet waters. Sometimes, serving God faithfully means being led into darkest valleys… valleys under the shadow of death…

He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me…
Psalm 23:3-4 NASB
He shared the story of a student pilot being tested by his instructor. The instructor sat perfectly silent waiting for the student to pull the plane out of a free fall for the first time. The student succeeded, eventually remembering instructions, but in the aftermath poured out his fear and anger on his teacher. In the veteran pilot’s calm response, he heard God speak to him…
As you serve Me there is no position you can get your life into
that I cannot get you out of…

To serve God, is to follow Him as our Shepherd. Recognizing our complete lack of understanding, self-sufficiency, self-righteousness, and wisdom. Knowing that apart from Him we can do nothing. Willingly following Him in… and through… the darkest valley…
But sometimes, we forget He will lead us into shadowed valleys of death. And when things get dark or life isn’t turning out the way we think it should when we follow Him, sometimes we take things into our own hands. Choose our own way, because we don’t trust Him to bring us through this valley of pain, disappointment, fear.
And the problem occurs when we stop following, stop serving, stop trusting. Then we can end up in a place we cannot walk through.
In the dark, sometimes, we fall into a pit.
When I consider pits, I equate them with sin. The sin that occurs when we stop following the Shepherd and begin to lean on our own understanding. We don’t trust Him to provide what is needed so we seek it from other sources. 
Sometimes we jump into the pit ourselves. 
Sometimes we are pushed.
Sometimes others drag us into theirs.
But a pit is not like a valley. There is no walking through a pit. The only way out is to be lifted out. 
So consider today, if you find yourself in a dark place:
How did you get there? Were you following the Shepherd? Or someone or something else? maybe self?
Is it a place you can walk through? Or do you find yourself walking in circles?

For whatever reason, you may find yourself in a pit. This is the time to humble yourself before God — His Word and His Way — cry out to Him for help and wait…
I waited patiently for the Lord;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth, 
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the Lord.
Psalm 40:1-3 ESV
Our Shepherd hears the cries of His sheep. There is no pit so deep that He cannot rescue and redeem.
The beauty of being lifted out is the trust that is gained: Many will see… and put their trust in the Lord. And next time you’re following Him, and the valley gets dark… you’ll know the safest place to be is with Him and you’ll have the faith to walk through.
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
Psalm 23:4 NASB
Lord Jesus, Great Shepherd, help me to recognize when I am in a pit. Bless me with the humility and trust to cry out to You and wait for You to lift me out. Use my past pit experience to help me stay close to You even through the darkest valley.
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