You are With Me
Today after working in the yard, Diana and I prepared our backpack with water and trail snacks and headed toward Mt St. Helens. Once in the National Forest around the National Monument we headed to a place we had hiked before. We drove on a washed-out gravel road until snow stopped us from reaching the trailhead. After a couple of weeks of warm weather, I didn’t dream that roads were still snowed in. We went back to the last pull off and decided to bushwhack toward the mountain for a better view.
After deciding we had gone far enough, we took some pictures and then started back to the truck. Diana wanted to go back the way we came, but I thought I could find an easier way. Diana reluctantly went the new direction with me (probably to keep me from getting lost). After going for a quarter of a mile or so I realized that this was not taking us back to the truck and we were not seeing landmarks that looked familiar. By this time, we had been on several animal trails and seen plenty of scat. Both of us were getting a little concerned, noticing every crackle and thud behind us.
During this adventure I did have a compass in my pack but was arrogant enough to think I didn’t need it. Diana had suggested that we leave “bread crumbs” along the way out and I didn’t think we need those either! We finally made it out to the road, but it was some ways down from our truck. Lessons learned today – #1 Listen to Diana and do what she suggests; #2 Don’t try an unknown, unmarked trail without a guide.
This experience is an object lesson for life. Diana and I have come to many decision points in our married life together. At each of these times we ask for God’s direction and listen for guidance. We then follow God’s leading into some wonderful and some scary adventures!! Including our latest adventure to southwest Washington.
When we find ourselves at one of these decision points, my go-to scripture is Psalm 23 – The Shepherd’s Psalm. My mother helped me memorize this psalm when I was only three years old. Through my life it became more than memorized verses and continues to be a source of direction in times of uncertainty and transition.
From the first verse to the last, these ancient words of David focus on Yahweh and his personal presence with we humans. The first part of verse 4 gives me the most comfort – “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me.”
Think of the darkest physical place you’ve ever experienced. Have you ever been in a cave and then turned your flashlight off? The darkness is so thick you can almost feel it. (Reminds me of the lava tubes not far from where we were walking today.)
Besides physically dark places, we all face spiritual and emotional dark places throughout our life experience. After you face these dark times and then look back . . . do you ever realize how God was with you even though you couldn’t sense Him?
His presence is always with us. It’s much easier going through rugged terrain (especially when you don’t know the trail) when someone is walking with you. It’s the same with our spiritual life – it’s much easier going through rough places when God is with us. God helps us overcome the worst thing about the dark valley – FEAR. Yahweh’s good mercy and faithful love always pursues us. His presence comforts us.
By the way, did you notice that in the psalm the valley of the shadow of death was on the right path? Just because circumstances are tough doesn’t mean that God has abandoned us, or that we have strayed from the right path.
We humans search for many things. This Psalm highlights some of the most important ones – provision, rest, guidance, and fellowship. All these are found in the one true God, the Good Shepherd.
No matter our circumstances:
green pastures, still waters, enemies in pursuit, dark valleys . . .
Jesus Christ is our provider, our guide, our healer, our protector, our companion.
One last thought. God’s goodness and mercy in our lives are not for us to keep for ourselves. A practical way we show our gratitude for His forgiveness and guiding presence in our lives is to show goodness and mercy to others. We must share the love of Christ with our families, our neighbors, our community, and yes even our enemies! We are most like the Good Shepherd when we are meeting the needs of our neighbors – giving a cup of cold water in His name.
This lesson from Psalm 23 is bigger than the individual, it has meaning for God’s flock – the church. We as the church must be salt and light in this world. We must be willing vessels to help bring heaven to earth. The good news is that God equips us for the task!
“May the God of peace, who brought back the great shepherd of the sheep, our Lord Jesus, from the dead by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with every good thing to do his will, by developing in us what pleases him through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory forever and always. Amen.”
Hebrews 13:20-21 (CEB)