Summary: 5th in a 6 part series on surviving stress. This series uses the popular "Survivor" TV show as a "hook" and Psalm 23 as the Biblical foundation.
SURVIVING DARK VALLEYS
INTRODUCTION: (Play 2:40 & fade of “Tears of Heaven” by Eric Clapton - lyrics on powerpoint)
I am a fan of Eric Clapton’s music but until this week I didn’t know what motivated Eric to write the song we just heard. “Tears of Heaven” won Eric Clapton a 1993 Grammy and Song of the year award. I know Eric didn’t write it for that. You see, Eric Clapton wrote that song in memory of his son, Conor. On March 20, 1991, 41/2 year old Conor fell out of Eric Clapton’s 53rd story window. It was one of those accidents that was so preventable and yet aren’t imaginable until they happen. Apparently a housekeeper cleaned the 4’ x 6’ window and left it open to air out the room. Eric went to retrieve a fax and Conor apparently thinking the window was a door fell to his death. As you can imagine the death of Conor had a deep impact on Eric. He said later, “Something in me died that day too. I kept asking, ‘What if I hadn’t gone to the fax machine? What if the housekeeper hadn’t cleaned the window? For the next year it felt like I could not breathe, like I was in a hole with walls so steep I could never escape.”
Maybe you haven’t had Eric Clapton’s tragedy but maybe you’ve felt like you’ve been thrust into a dark hole by something that has happened to you. A dark valley with walls so steep you feel like you could not escape. How do you handle those times? What do you do when life caves in?
Well, today we want to concentrate on God’s “Survival Kit” for the dark valleys of life. Those times when quite frankly, your not sure if anyone or anything out there is going to help. David knew that feeling. And as we continue to look at the 23rd Psalm, David, the ancient king of Israel, would say to us: “Please accept this fact: Even in your deepest valleys, your darkest days.. God is there.” Other than vs:1, this may be the most well known verse in Psa. 23. Vs:4- "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." This morning let’s look closely at what this verse means as we are victims of the valleys and then make practical application to how we can have victory in the valley because “God is with us.”
I. BEING VICTIMIZED BY VALLEYS:
Let’s begin by understanding what David is talking about in this verse. This verse, along with the John 14:1, where Jesus says, “Let not your heart be troubled, believe in God, believe also in me,” is one that you hear often at funerals. And surely the death of a loved one is a valley. But sometimes we may think that the “valley” David is referring to here is only the valley of death. Literally the Hebrew here reads “the valley of deep darkness.” You see, we might think of a valley as a gentle, rolling, meadow where living is ideal. And truly there are some beautiful valleys.. The Shendoah Valley in Virginia, the Flathead River Valley in Montana, David is not referring to that type of terrain here. He is referring to a deep, dark, ravine. A place that is home for vultures by day and wolves by night, a chasm among the hills, a frightening place. In fact, most scholars believe that David is referring to a specific valley called the “Valley of the Shadow of Death.” It was a deep, dark, foreboding place to try to walk through let alone lead sheep. David, would often lead his sheep through the valley of the shadow of death as the flock made it’s way to the higher mountain ranges for summer grazing. But, when he says we walk through this valley he is not talking about this kind of place in the physical sense but the emotional sense. He’s speaking of places of deep heartache, of tough trauma, of serious suffering. This is a place where shadows are prevalent, where sadness is present, where suffering is predominate. So, here are 5 truths about valleys that you need to remember when you go through a tough time:
(1) Valleys are inevitable. One of the worst things we can do is have an unrealistic expectation that life will be without trouble. Several years ago I had a young couple in my office who wanted me to perform their wedding. I told them to do so, would require them to complete our pre-marital counseling. The girl looked at me and said, “Oh, we won’t need that. I know that other couples have problems in their marriage but we won’t... we love each other too much,” and they looked at each other all starry eyed. I wanted to say, “Boy! You don’t know how much you need this counseling!” But it is a fact of life.. Just as every mountain has a valley, every life has difficulties. Jesus was very realistic about that fact. Jn 16:33- "In the world you will have trouble." It’s not a matter of if, it’s when. You’re going to experience disappointment, discouragement, suffering, sorrow, sickness, frustration, failure & fatigue. These things will happen. They are a normal part of life. Don’t be surprised. 1 Ptr 4:12- “Do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange was happening to you.” When trials and tribulations come it will help if you expect them.