Death Valley ∙
It is a land as dark as midnight, a land of gloom and confusion, where even the light is dark as midnight. – Job 10:22
Psalms 23:4 Even when I walk through the valley of death, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.
Death Valley is a desert valley located in Eastern California, in the northern Mojave Desert. Death Valley is 282 feet below sea level, the lowest elevation in North America.
Death Valley is one of the hottest places in the world. On July 10, 1913, the high temperature was 134 °F at Furnace Creek. This is the highest ambient air temperature ever recorded at the surface of the Earth.
The highest ground surface temperature on earth ever recorded was 201.0 °F in Death Valley on July 15, 1972.
There were 154 consecutive days with a maximum temperature of 100 °F or above in 2001. The year 1996 had 105 days over 110 °F and 40 days over 120 °F.
The Father invites us into a walk of faith when we receive His Son the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord. This lifelong journey takes us through all kinds of spiritual and emotional terrain. There are mountaintops with delightful views and refreshing times of delight, enrichment, and encouragement. But there are also deep, dark valleys. Each child of the King traverses valleys of dark shadows. Our time on the mountains seems all too brief. But our times in the valleys seem too long. Why does the Father lead His children into and through valleys?
The valley is a place of purging and cleansing. The Father “draws us through valleys in order to remove every habit, thought pattern, or external crutch that we use instead of trusting Him – those suddenly seem inadequate in the low places” (Stanley).
When you are on a mountain it is always so easy to feel close to the Father and be confident of His love. But it is in the valleys when we get to know ourselves. There we discover the unexpected joy of His presence and the certainty of His promises. Without the valley, we would never enter into the depths of ourselves. But more importantly, we begin to dig into the uppermost layers of the infinite depth of our Father in heaven. Throughout eternity the process will continue but will never get to the bottom of Him.
“You don’t really know who you are until you have gone through suffering. We can measure our spiritual growth by the way we behave under pressure” (Welch).
“Believers can shout, ‘I trust God’ from the mountain because they have learned to live by faith in the valley. Walking in the shadow of evil is difficult and frightening work. But when we surrender to whatever the Lord has to teach us in this dark place, our spirit is quieted, and our faith is strengthened” (Stanley).
REFLECT & PRAY
“Knowing God without knowing our own wretchedness makes for pride. Knowing our own wretchedness without knowing God makes for despair. Knowing Jesus Christ strikes the balance because He shows us both God and our own wretchedness” (Welch).
Father thank You for the mountains and thank You for the valleys.
King David had many skirmishes with death and was always the victor. Which contest does Psalm 23 reference? Could it have been when Saul was trying to kill him? Could it be when Absalom defiantly rebelled, ran David off, and took over his kingdom? Perhaps it was earlier in his life when he was shepherding and had to face a bear or lion to defend his sheep. Maybe it refers to the time when he faced Goliath.
We cannot say with certainty. What we know for certain is that it was a time of dreadful danger and possible death. The Hebrew term shadow of death is tsalmavet. It is used only 18 times in the Old Testament. It has traditionally been understood as a compound noun coming from tsal – shadow and mavet – death. It refers to a place of darkness, dark shadows, fear and dread, extreme danger. There is an implied sense of sorrow, deep distress, suspense, and gloom.
David faced the darkest of all valleys. Was David overwhelmed by darkness and gloom? Did anguish, despair, or perhaps even depression consume him? Absolutely not! He knew he was under the Father’s protection. He drew courage, confidence, and strength to prevail. His courage in the face of danger has undoubtedly inspired untold millions through the millennia.
Each child of the King faces depressive and dark times. David is our brother in the faith. David’s Father is our Father. His calm confidence can be our calm confidence. Each of us can say with absolute assurance, He restores my soul, He renews my strength.
“How does He do this? He restores our souls through fellowship with Himself. Even though at times we stray far from Him, He remains the Good Shepherd. Though we wander, He receives us back gladly and willingly pardons His wayward sheep” (Stanley).
No matter how dark the valley, there is always light on the other side.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn walked through many valleys of dark shadows. In February 1945, after serving in the Red Army during World War II, Solzhenitsyn was arrested for writing derogatory comments about Joseph Stalin. He was sentenced to an eight-year term in a labor camp. After his release, Solzhenitsyn was sent to internal exile for life. A Russian Jew he was drawn to the truth of Christianity through his experiences. He became a philosophically-minded Eastern Orthodox Christian. His transformation is described at some length in the fourth part of The Gulag Archipelago, “The Soul and Barbed Wire.” The book was written between 1958 and 1968 and first published in 1973.
He wrote of his time in the dark valleys, I nourished my soul there, and I say without hesitation: “Bless you, prison, for having been in my life!” – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn