Psalm 23 deserves a slow walk at times. I’ve come back to it all week because I don’t want to rush through such a treasured Psalm this time.
One of the most difficult things for us to learn is knowing the presence of our Shepherd in our darkest valleys. If God is really there, why is it so dark? Isn’t he “light”? Why is he hiding? Why is he silent?
It is so incredibly difficult to know his presence in those dark times of our lives.
One of the great encouragements I received in my reading this week reflected on the pastor as shepherd. The shepherd is to be out in front of the sheep. In our modern day business-driven models for churches, that makes sense. We want to be out front! We are visionaries! We are leaders! We must show people the way!
But the shepherd is a different model out front. The shepherd is scouting ahead. He is seeking the next resting place. He is not “out ahead.” He is close. But in leading from the front, it is also a place of danger. If attacks come, the shepherd gets hit first. He can’t hide behind the sheep.
In our darkest times, in the dark valleys, when the heavens seem silent, we learn to know the presence of our Shepherd. He may be out front looking out for the danger ahead. While we may think the valley is dark, he is clearing the way of further danger. He is making sure we make it through that valley. In those times he may seem silent to us, but he is hard at work showing us the way through.
And he is not way out front. He is close. The darkness may be hiding him, but he is there.
His rod and staff are there to draw us in and keep us close. He doesn’t want us straying off.
When we learn to sense his presence we come to understand the valleys are no longer a place of fear. They are a place to know his presence in an entirely different way.