A few years ago, I heard a series of messages on Psalm 23. In discussing the “valleys of the shadows and death,” one speaker made the excellent point that sometimes the sheep needed to go into the valleys to get water. This seemed like a logical observation but one that I had never considered before. Water is not found on the mountain tops, but in the places in between. We may think of valleys as detours, inconveniences on the way to our true destination, yet they often contain something good. . The fact that the valley may contain something beneficial is usually not something that we consider. In fact, we are often tempted to avoid walking down that path, if we can.
However, water, doesn’t just nourish the sheep it also strengthens them and prepares them for the journey ahead. If the sheep don’t go into the valley to quench their thirst, they may not last the rest of the way. In other words, the benefit to the sheep isn’t just in the moment. It brings them good then, yes, but it also prepares them for the future.
Sometimes, we’re called to walk in valleys too. Those valleys may be watered with the tears of anguish and of pain or they may simply be “detours” on the path that the Shepherd is leading us. Sometimes we see the good that God is bringing in the moment, and sometimes, we might not. Regardless, we can trust that for His children He is using the times in the valley to bring about their good and His glory. Not only for the moment, but for their future as well.
Often times sheep have to go in the valleys in order to be prepared for what lies ahead. Sometimes they may wonder why when the path ahead of them seems certain and clear. In those cases, they must trust the Shepherd and follow where He leads. They must drink of His goodness and remember that not only has He prepared the path, He knows what they need to get safely to the end.