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Dark Valley Surprise

Even though I walk
through the darkest valley ...
- from Psalm 23:4

You can't go around it. You can't tunnel under it. You can't fly over it. You've got to go through it. Everyone walks through the valley.

Our whole lives we're trained to avoid the dark valleys. Make the right decisions. Get an education. Save up. Plan ahead. Read this parenting book and do what it says. Wear sunscreen. You could probably add a dozen nuggets of dark-valley-avoiding advice to this haphazard list. And all that advice might be wise. There's nothing wrong with education, savings, planning, reading, and getting advice. But they don't guarantee you a life free from the valley.

King David, the person who wrote this psalm, experienced valleys throughout his life. He lost his dream job. He was chased by the military and branded a terrorist. His wife made fun of him. His son tried to kill him. His son died. He lost his integrity, his reputation and his dignity. He was well-acquainted with "the valley of the shadow of death" as some have called it.

But David never seemed surprised when the dark valleys appeared. Sure, he'd steer clear of them where possible. But when the inevitable happened and he found himself in the midst of crippling darkness, David responded with maturity (as we'll see tomorrow).

To paraphrase one theologian, when we don't expect to encounter dark valleys, we respond in immature and dangerous ways to their appearance. All you have to do is live long enough and you'll have dark valley experiences. Knowing that they're coming can prepare you to respond with more wisdom and grace when they appear.

Think back on your life. Have you ever been (or are you now) in a dark valley experience? Were you surprised? How did you respond?

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