Summary: This sermon deals with the dark valleys we encounter in life, various aspects about these valleys, and how we successfully navigate through them.
Navigating Life’s Dark Valleys
Last week we looked at how to handle the stress in our ongoing series entitled, “Spiritual First Aid.” In that message I alluded to the Shepherd’s Psalm, Psalm 23, a couple of time, because within the Psalm God deals with many of life’s stressors.
In what might be considered as the most recognizable verses of Psalm 23, King David deals with the stress of the potential loss of life. And while we’ve looked at this verse and the valleys of life, I thought it might be good to look at this verse once again, given the various losses many of us have experienced lately. And I’m not talking about the loss of life along, but also the loss of finances, relationships, jobs, and even health.
In Psalm 23:4 King David said,
“Yea, 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 NKJV)
In Israel there’s actually a valley called “The Shadow of Death.” I’m told it’s a steep, dark, and narrow canyon that the sun only reaches when it’s directly overhead. David may very well have led his sheep up this valley.
The Bible often talks about valleys as tough times.
• Joshua talks about a Valley of Calamity. (Joshua 7:26)
• Psalm 84:6 uses the imagery of people passing through the Valley of Baca, or weeping, and
• Hosea talks about the Valley of Achor, or the Valley of Trouble. (Hosea 2:15)
Other valleys mentioned in the Bible are where battles have been fought and victories won. The Valley of Elah is one such valley. This is where young David won a great victory for Israel over the Philistines by defeating the giant Goliath. (1 Samuel 17:19)
Now if you were on God’s side of this valley, this valley is one of victory. But if you were on Goliath’s side, then you went down in flames.
There is also the Valley of Shittim, which is part of the larger Jordan Valley. It was in this valley that the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah resided and that God brought judgment against because of their sins. Once this valley was green and fertile, but now it’s nothing but desolation. In fact, the sea that is located in that valley is dead. That’s why it’s known as the “Dead Sea.”
It’s the same desolation we see whenever the Valley of Hinnon is mentioned. This valley lies outside of Jerusalem. It was in this valley that Israel greatly sinned by sacrificing their children to the god Molech. As a consequence the Lord calls it a place of slaughter and as a place of ashes and bodies. (Jeremiah 7:31; 31:40)
During the days of Jesus the Valley of Hinnon was the city’s garbage dump where fires continually burned, and was synonymous with hell, a place of decay and burning.
Today valleys are not well thought of. We talk of being in despair as being in a valley. When we’re not doing well we say we’re in a valley. But our valleys don’t have to be places of despair.
To rightly handle our times in these valleys we need to understand some aspects or facts about the valleys we encounter in life.
Valleys Are Inevitable
Valley experiences are going to happen, so we might as well count on them. Jesus said,
“In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33b NKJV)
Underline the world “will.” It’s not a matter of “if,” but “when” a valley is going to happen. We’re all going to experience difficulties, disappointments, and discouragements; suffering, sorrow, and sicknesses; frustration, failure, and fatigue. These are all a normal part of life, so they shouldn’t surprise us.
Valleys Are Unpredictable
We can never plan nor schedule valleys. Valleys are always unexpected and always tend to come at the worst time imaginable. Think about it, there’s never a good time to have a flat tire or for the car to break down. There’s never a good time to lose your job or health.
Have you ever noticed how quickly a good day can turn into a bad day?
The prophet Jeremiah said,
“Destruction upon destruction is cried, for the whole land is plundered. Suddenly my tents are plundered, and my curtains in a moment.” (Jeremiah 4:20 NKJV)
Jeremiah is basically saying that since valleys happen in an instant we need to be prepared to be unprepared.
Valleys Are Impartial
No one is immune to valleys. No one is insulated from pain and sorrow. No one gets a “Get out of the valley” free card. Everyone has problems, good and bad people. In other words, valleys are impartial. Jesus said,