The Valley of the Shadow of Death is Real

In the Weight Loss, God’s Way Program, we’re in a 21-day Bible study called, Messy in the Middle.” It’s helping those of us who feel like we’re ‘stuck’ to allow God to bring us to the other side with grace and peace.

As we understand the process, we’ve come to understand that all weight loss journeys have a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Typically when we begin a program, we’re excited. Thankfully, we’ve temporarily forgotten our past attempts and are filled with optimism for what is to come. We believe that, maybe this time, it will be different.

The end of our journey is so rewarding! We’ve put in the time, we’ve paid the price, and our results reflect our sacrifice. We feel accomplished and victorious.

But it’s the period in the middle of our weight loss journey that’s the most challenging. It’s the period in the middle where our willpower, enthusiasm, and motivation has worn off.

It’s the period in the middle where the novelty of the adrenaline rush that often accompanies the newness of a task or project, wears off. Where the excitement of the commitment we made at the start comes face to face with the reality of the work involved. 

As we studied Psalm 23:4 during one of our “Seek Him Saturday” calls, we found great comfort in understanding that God is with us during the ‘messy middles’ of our journey. As we studied the Valley of the Shadow of Death, we learned that it is a real place. Check this out!!

shadow-ornament

"There is a valley of the shadow of death in the Holy Land. It is south of the Jericho Road leading from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea and is a narrow defile through the mountain range. Climatic and grazing conditions make it necessary for the sheep to be moved through this valley for seasonal feeding. "The valley is four and a half miles long. Its sidewalls are over 1500 feet high in places and it is only 10 or 12 feet wide at the bottom. Travel through the valley is dangerous, because its floor, badly eroded by cloudbursts, has deep gullies. Actual footing on solid rock is so narrow in places that a sheep cannot turn around, and it is an unwritten law of shepherds that flocks must go up the valley in the morning hours and down towards the eventide, lest flocks meet in the defile. Mules have not been able to make the trip for centuries, but sheep and goat herders from earliest Old Testament days have maintained a passage for their stock.

"About halfway through the valley, the walk crosses from one side to the other at a place where the path is cut in two by an eight-foot gully. One section of the path is about 18 inches higher than the other; the sheep must jump across it. The shepherd stands at this break and coaxes or forces the sheep to make the leap. If the sheep slips and lands in the gully, the shepherd's staff is brought into play. The old-style crook is encircled around a large sheep's neck or a small sheep's chest, and it is lifted to safety. If a more modern narrow crook is used, the sheep is caught about the hoofs and lifted up to the walk.

"Many wild dogs lurk in the shadows of the valley looking for prey. After a band of sheep has entered the defile, the leader may come upon such a dog. Unable to retreat, the leader baas a warning. The shepherd, skilled in throwing his rod, hurls it at the dog and knocks it into the washed-out gully where it is easily killed. Thus the sheep have learned to fear no evil, even in the valley of the shadow of death for their master is there to aid them and protect them from harm."

shadow-ornament

Taken from an article by James K. Wallace who quotes the word of Ferando D’Alphonso, an experienced shepherd.

If you're also moving through a messy middle, take comfort that our Good Shepherd is with us in the midst of our trials, leading us and protecting us. We're not alone and we will make it to the other side if we persevere, trusting God to get us safely to the other side.

Are you going through a valley at the moment? What comfort, encouragement, and strength can you take from these verses?

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