I grew up living right behind the high school I attended. It meant that we had baseball fields and football fields in our backyard. It was great! However, every fall as school was starting, our house was flooded with a monotonous clicking noise. It was the marching band practicing, and when they practiced, they used a metronome to keep them in rhythm. While it kept all of the musicians in unison, it nearly drove everyone in my house crazy!
I wish life’s valleys came with a metronome. David claims that he “walks through the valley of the shadow of death.” He walks through it – he doesn’t run through it, he doesn’t walk around it, he doesn’t climb out of it; he walks through the valley. It seems as though there are two equal but opposite responses to the life’s valleys. The first is to run through or take a shortcut around the valley. We are averse to pain and typically want it to end as quickly as possible. Sometimes we’ll minimize the ache so that we can get out of the valley as quickly as possible. When James wrote to the church about hardships, he said, “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:4) The word perseverance literally means ‘to remain under.’ James is encouraging Jesus followers not to run through the valley because God shapes them through the experience.
The second temptation we often face in the valley is to stop altogether. Painful experiences can stop us in our tracks and cause us to shut down. David doesn’t run through the valley, but he also doesn’t set up a camp in the valley. In the valley it can be so easy to lose our joy, to doubt God’s presence and goodness, and to stop moving forward. David’s subtle claim is that God’s presence with him allows him to keep moving forward. However, there are also times when the wisdom of a counselor or trusted friend can be helpful in getting unstuck.
If there were a metronome beating in the valley, it would set a pace balanced between patience and persistence. If you’re in a valley today, pause and ask Jesus if you’re running, camping, or allowing him to lead you through. If you’re not in a valley right now, think back to the last time you were. How did you respond?
Today pray a simple prayer: Jesus, help me hear your voice and stay in step with your Spirit. (Galatians 5:16)