Summary: Encouragement for those suffering from loss of loved ones, or loss of a dream.
Mankind has struggled with many things. Probably the most difficult of these is adversity. Every since Adam and Eve were cast from the garden, mankind has faced adversity. It has come in many different ways and in many different forms. But regardless of the method, the struggle is just as real. It is significant that the oldest book of the Bible deals with adversity. Job was written even before Genesis. The trials Job faced and the questions he struggled with have puzzled the whole of human philosophy and theology for several milleniums. Job, in his reasoning summed it up this way; (Job 14:1), "Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble." That would include us all!
Many sermons have been preached, many books have been written in attempt to explain the meaning of human suffering. Indeed, it is one of the most difficult tasks a theologian can undertake. I don’t pretend to have the answers to those tough questions today. In fact, I’m not even going to try! But what I am preaching to you this morning is this; no matter what you may face in this life, God is there with you. The Abiding Presence of God will be with you through every thing you encounter.
David faced many things. We see him as the boy who killed Goliath, and the King who ruled Israel. We see him as the man who loved to praise, and the leader who brought the Ark of the Covenant back to God’s people. We sometimes forget the adversity that helped shape his life before he was King. A thorough reading of the Psalms will reveal that David faced much grief in his lifetime. Ps. 140 is a plea for deliverance from the evil man. Ps. 142 was written while hiding from Saul in a cave. Ps. 109 is a prayer of condemnation for someone who had slandered David. Ps. 59 is a prayer for deliverance from violent men. Ps. 61 is a prayer for those who are overwhelmed.
It is from the words of this great shepherd that we chose our text today. In the first three verses David speaks of the leading of his shepherd, the LORD. In verse 4 the thought turns from where the shepherd leads, to where the sheep is walking. We can, and we should talk often of what God is doing. We should extol his greatness, his goodness, his mercy, and his grace. We should declare his wondrous acts, and his mighty works. But at the same time, we must be sensitive to the need we see around us. We must have our eyes trained on heaven, and our feet planted firmly on the ground. We cannot ignore the suffering and the trials we face here below. David said; (Psalms 23:4a), "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…” He realized there were some valleys he would have to walk through. While he might hope for deliverance, experience taught him that deliverance didn’t always come. It was in times like these that David understood that when there was no hope for deliverance, there was still hope in God. For while he walked through the valley, he took comfort in knowing; “…for thou art with me…”
Perhaps the most difficult thing to come to grips with is our mortality. When we are young we feel we are invincible. Death is a far off specter that we do not comprehend. It is only when sickness rears its head that we begin to understand our frailty. It is only as we experience the death of a loved one that we begin to face our own vulnerability. There are those of you who have walked through the valley of the shadow of death. You have experienced the loss. It may have been the loss of a loved one. It may have been the loss of a relationship. It may have been the loss of your health. It may have been the loss of your dreams.
There are those here today who have never been through this valley, but it lies ahead. Maybe you can see it on the horizon, or maybe it is out of sight. You may fear the future because of what you see. You may be questioning why you have to take this route. Surely God could lead you another way. You may feel you’ve been through enough already. And yet the valley lies ahead.
Regardless of the road ahead, the message today is not negative. I may not be able to change the future, but this thing I do know; God will be with you every step of the way. It is in knowing this that we have hope for the journey. The fact that “thou art with me”; The Abiding Presence of God, is what gives strength to make it through the valley. It is only those who face the valley alone that have no hope. Allow God’s word to build your faith this morning. You don’t have to face the trial alone!