When you are happy, so happy you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be — or so it feels— welcomed with open arms.A Grief Observed – C.S. Lewis
But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence.
C.S. Lewis seems to be asking, where is God in the darker moments of life? When life is well and all is good we can almost take His presence for granted but when life is tough, why does it feel like we are often met with silence?
Q. Have you ever felt like this? What things might have you thought or felt about God at this time?
Does God abandon us in the dark moments of life?
In exploring Psalm 23 we’re reminded that…
- God is with us in the darkness
- God guides us through the darkness
- God brings us out of the darkness
1 – God is with us in the darkness.
“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” Psalm 23:4
The Psalm suggests to us in the beginning (v1-3) that God is with us in the best moments of life, in the green pastures, quiet waters and refreshed soul. Then, as it continues, it puts across the idea that even in the dark valley God is still with us.
In being WITH US, he SEES and UNDERSTANDS… an example of this can be seen in John 11. (Read this chapter for yourself, is there anything you find interesting about the passage in terms of God being WITH US?)
Something of note is Jesus’ reaction to Mary as she cries… even though He will raise Lazarus from the dead, His reaction isn’t to belittle or push her pain to the side: rather He weeps with her… He enters into her pain and suffering, He is with her.
This is something about God that we can hold on to and it’s something we can LEAN on… trusting that He is true to His word and that He is WITH US IN the darkness..
2 – God guides us through the darkness
“your rod and your staff,they comfort me” Psalm 23:4
The Psalm also gives us a picture of God’s guidance and support THROUGH the darkness.
The ROD symbolises God’s strength and power. It tells us of His protection and willingness to step into danger for us. The STAFF symbolises guidance. It gives us a picture of being draw close and guided through trouble.
With both of these in mind then, it encourages us to know that the shepherd doesn’t run off to save Himself; rather that He is there with us and for us in the darkness.
This then can provide us with 2 questions to consider, Am I LISTENING? What am I LEARNING?
Q. As you experience the dark valley in your own life how might you know God’s guidance through it? How might you hear Him and learn from Him during this time?
3 – God brings us out of the darkness
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow meal the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” Psalm 23:5-6
Finally the Psalm says to us that God BRINGS US OUT of the darkness.
Ultimately the darkness doesn’t win, but there is a feast, a table, a cup that overflows and the experience of God’s presence.
Q. How might it feel for you to know this, to know that whatever you are going through isn’t the end and that there will be a time when all wrongs are put right? How might these verses speak into your life right now?
Something we can do in response to this is to LOOK – to look in hope to God, knowing that He is good, that He is with us, that He loves us, that He defeats the darkness in our lives, He defeats the darkness that we experience around us and He will make all things new.
Psalm 23 can help to remind us that
God doesn’t abandon us in the darkness;
rather He is WITH US in the darkness,
GUIDES US THROUGH the darkness
and He BRINGS US OUT of the darkness.
Rebecca McLaughlin highlights that we can see this in Jesus …
10 questions every teen should ask – Rebecca McLaughlin
Perhaps you’ve noticed this is your own life. We can laugh with anyone. But we tend to cry only with those closest to us; and the bond is strongest when their suffering matches ours, because we know they really understand. In Jesus, we find the one person who knows all our heartache and our pain. Jesus was abandoned by his closet friends, beaten by strangers, stripped, abused, and hung on a cross to die. If you’ve ever been let down, teased or bullied or felt alone or got terribly sick, Jesus knows how you feel. There is no wound of ours he cannot touch. He knows the end of the story when he will make a whole new better world.
I accept you as my shepherd:
help me to trust your provisions and obey your leading.
I believe you are my host:
help me to relax in your protection and recognise the signs of your presence.
In Jesus Christ, AMEN
Praying the Psalms – Eugene Peterson