Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil, for You are with me.
This particular Psalm is rather well known, as well it should be. The author’s portrayal of the life of faith is simple and brilliant. The Psalmist is also honest. Like in the verse cited above. The Psalmist seemingly suggest our walking through such dark places is not rare, but rather all-together common. Yet, how often do I find myself surprised to be stumbling my way through circumstances which are far beyond my capabilities, education, and expertise. I fret and moan meanwhile sitting behind all these events is the only One to whom my soul could run and find true, lasting peace. Sad, but true.
Walking through dark places is familiar to me. The Psalmist reminds me not to fear these journeys. Rather, we are to embrace them. The dark experiences remind us how fragile we are and how infinite He is. We are reminded of our clumsiness and rashness when our seeing Him reminds us of His grace and patience. We need these reminders. After all, if the final goal of the human condition is to be rid of its’ sin nature and united in perfect harmony with the character of Christ, how else will we ever come to see ourselves as evil?
Think about it. If you are being honest, we humans are amazingly capable of forgetting who we really are due to the amount of time and energy in projecting to the others who we are not (but in our minds wished we were). Graciously, the dark valley’s remind us quickly who we really are. More important, our valley’s remind us who He is and why we are here.
Jean Pierre de Cassaude wrote his Abandonment to Divine Providence in the 19th century. In that book he wrote, “God’s method of teaching is by pain and obstacle, not by ideas.” How true. C.S. Lewis wrote something similar when he described how the Lord whispers to us in our pleasures but scream to us in pain. Lewis said pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world.
We are, then, called to walk through dark valleys fearing no evil. Why? Because evil does not get the final word. Proof of that is in Jesus’ resurrection. Death couldn’t not keep Jesus down. The evil and tyranny that crucified Christ was humiliated by the far simpler, yet infinitely more powerful graces of patience, trust, righteousness, and love. Evil not only is defeated in the end, but as we walk through evil, the Lord of life walks with us. Greater is he in us than he who is in the world. So, when we see dark valleys with these eyes, our dark valleys become settings for our good. We see more of God’s presence and grace in the valleys. We see just how good he is.
You know what else? Those “darkest valleys” are crucial in our telling of the gospel.
For us to be able to communicate the gospel to the world, we must understand the gospel. And, the gospel is not really learned in seminary classrooms (I know, I’ve been through them). The gospel is learned when you bury parents in your early teens; when your marriage is already on the rocks and you haven’t made it to your first anniversary; when your children keep you up night after night after night; when you experience a miscarriage. The gospel, the good news that evil is defeated and love not only will win, but has begun it’s final victory, truly hist home when pain abounds. We cannot communicate that to a world if we have not hurt like the world.
Jesus showed us. He became man, suffered, hungered, cried, was tortured, and died. Why? Not only to save us but to teach us what compassion and love really look like. Compassion and grace come when we enter into people’s hurt and walk with them. Jesus did for us, and our dark valleys better equip us to do the same for others.