Thursday, June 1, 2017
“He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies…Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” Psalm 23:3-6.
Bruce and I have been part of a dinner club for over 20 years. Over the years I have prepared my turn with exact details. I would pour over recipes when planning the meal, and shop intentionally for unique things. I would set the table with special dinnerware and always adorn the house with beautiful flowers. Every placed item was orchestrated by my hands in preparation for my friends. But what if someone told me I needed to give that same attention to detail and work, but my guests would be my enemies? How would I feel if I knew I was going to share my time in my personal space with those whom I avoid?
Many times, the table He prepares for us is a culinary nightmare for us to digest and share with others. Our enemies who join us at the table might be loneliness, guilt or even sickness. God might invite those most difficult to love into our lives to develop our hearts and character. I have read Psalm 23 too many times to count and it wasn’t until this morning that I discovered a possible answer for why God allows so much pain and despair. I’ve never noticed that the entrance gate to the valley of suffering is the opening to righteousness. It is the narrow path to dwell with the Shepherd, but He guarantees we already possess everything needed for that season. His rod of authority is what led us there and will continue to guide us. His staff is what comforts us as we walk through the dark times. But valleys are meant to traverse through, not to set up house in for the duration of time. Just as God leads us into these dark times, when the work of righteousness is done we will be led out on the other side. We will have seen another facet of God who taught our hearts to trust. He will follow us out of the valley and we will ascend with Him to greater places. Places of freedom and fields of grace for others.
But we will not get out of our valleys as long as we keep repeating the same things. We will circle the fence a million times and continue to miss the Gate. It is when are eyes are focused on Him that we will recognize where He is taking us and follow Him all the way to freedom…our personal ‘surely goodness and love land.’
“For the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 Co 3:17.