The Lord is my Shepherd [to feed, guide, and shield me], I shall not lack.
He makes me lie down in [fresh, tender] green pastures; He leads me beside the still and restful waters.
He refreshes and restores my life (my self); He leads me in the paths of righteousness [uprightness and right standing with Him—not for my earning it, but] for His name’s sake.
Yes, though I walk through the [deep, sunless] valley of the shadow of death, I will fear or dread no evil, for You are with me; Your rod [to protect] and Your staff [to guide], they comfort me. (Psalm 23:1-4)
What is interesting about this passage is that the first three verses talk about God’s goodness and all the things that He does for us. Verse one starts with The Lord; verses two and three begin with He and then there is a shift in the author’s writing.
Verse 4 begins with “yes, though I…”
Many people have misconstrued this verse into teaching others that God will lead us through valleys and always be with us. Only half of that statement is true. The author in Psalm points out to us that it is our choice to walk through the valley but that God has already provided tools to protect and cover us. Even more important is the valley itself.
Notice the author doesn’t write “yes, though I walk through the valley of death” but rather, “yes, though I walk through the valley of the SHADOW of death.” It is important for us to remember that no matter how difficult things may seem for us, that the Lord has already defeated the powers of Sin and Death so that only a shadow of it remains. Those that are in Christ are granted access to eternal life. This means that sin and death no longer represent the end destination of a Christian. This is why the writer in Psalm 23 makes note that the “shadow” of death is nothing to fear. The shadow of death can only claim the physical life of a human being but can never bring spiritual death to anyone that is in Christ.
Indeed all who delight in piety and are determined to live a devoted and godly life in Christ Jesus will meet with persecution [will be made to suffer because of their religious stand]. (2 Timothy 3:12)
Beloved, do not be amazed and bewildered at the fiery ordeal which is taking place to test your quality, as though something strange (unusual and alien to you and your position) were befalling you.
But insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, rejoice, so that when His glory [full of radiance and splendor] is revealed, you may also rejoice with triumph [exultantly]. (1 Peter 4:12-13)
When we truly suffer, then we are sharing in Christ’s sufferings. Yet even when we share in these sufferings, we still do not receive the full weight of what Christ felt. Being tired, worn out, frustrated, upset, worried, anxious, etc., can all be seen as proponents of suffering but they do not compare to the physical and spiritual pain that our Lord went through for us.
Jesus chose to enter this world at a time where punishment was cruel, and torture was extreme. He chose to be crucified by the hands of men on a cross. The word excruciating came from the term crucify. There was no word, at the time, to define the amount of pain that was caused by driving nails through someone’s wrists. On top of that, Jesus had just come from the garden where He sweat drops of blood. This would have made Jesus, intensely sensitive to the touch. He was then beaten and whipped and still carried His cross.
THEN….He was nailed to it.
Scripture tells us that anyone who hangs on a tree is cursed. This means that Jesus, for the first time in all of existence, was separated from the gaze of God. The full wrath and then entire weight of all the sins of mankind (past, present, future) crushed Him to death.
That is true suffering. Missing a meal, not getting things our way, being tired (while living in a first world country), being single, having anxiety, etc., are nothing…compared to being separated from a relationship with our Father in Heaven.
Everything on this earth is temporary, but the results of it are eternal. So while you and I might think we are suffering now, those that do not know Christ and/or reject Him…will know a suffering beyond anything we could ever imagine. Every person on earth is just a breath away from eternity. That eternity could be with God, or it could be without Him. Our job as Christians is to proclaim the GOOD news to all those that need to hear it…to all those on the edge of eternal suffering.
It is time that Christians remembered that the power Jesus resurrection has been passed along to us, and that we are to speak in boldness and in confidence, not with timidity and fear. There is no sneaking God’s word anywhere. Jesus commanded that we proclaim the good news…not whisper it.