Have you ever been on a mountain top? We, as a culture, talk about mountain top experiences and the valleys, highs and lows, ups and downs. But have you ever stopped to ponder the depths of the analogy?
Mountain tops are rugged. They are harsh. The elements beat on them, the weather changes in a moment, there is rarely a water source and usually little to no vegetation. They are typically difficult to reach, taking much effort and planning, and also they usually are tricky to descend. Unless, of course, you find one that has a paved road which will take you to the summit.
Valleys, on the other hand, are usually carved by water. They have vegetation, animals seek shelter there and they are protected from the harsh winds and dramatic weather changes by the mountains surrounding them.
The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You have anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows. Surely goodness and loving kindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
– Psalm 23
But Scripture does give us a picture of a terrifying valley, the valley of the shadow of death. When I read that, I picture Sleepy Hollow and the headless horseman riding through the fog.
But this Psalm is so comforting. The Lord is my shepherd. He is guiding me through the valleys and atop the mountains. He is leading the way and providing my needs. He is causing me to rest in green, plentiful pastures and provides cool water to drink. And when I enter into the valley of darkness, the pits of despair, He is leading me there. He has a purpose and a plan for it, and He has established the path through it. And when I start to stray off the path, his rod disciplines me and brings me back. His staff of discipline is a comfort to remind me that He is there, He cares, He wants my obedience, and He will guide me in it.
And as He guides me, my cup overflows with joy. Life. Spiritual blessings. He is everything that I need, and He satisfies me with his mercies.
The Lord is my shepherd. He is guiding on the mountaintop, which takes much effort to achieve but is rewarded with spectacular views, and in the valley, which is lush and full of water but has dark shadows and perils awaiting. He leads me. His loving kindness follows me, and one glorious day, I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.