A Psalm a Day Keeps the Devil Away

You know how people talk about having a "mountain top" experience in their lives? I would have to classify most of  2007 and 2008 that way. My husband and I were deeply involved in ministry at a church in the area we had just moved to. We had been told by several people that they had been praying for someone with our particular set of skills and talents, and we felt that God had directed us specifically. (I still believe this, and do not regret the time we spent there.) The ministry was successful, we had many precious friends, I was using my gifts in music and teaching, and I loved being in ministry alongside my husband and watching him thrive in his calling.

By the next year, everything had fallen apart. We ended up leaving the church and lost many of our friends in the process.  Although my husband became involved in ministry at our new church, it was not possible for me at that time, so I no longer had an outlet for music and stopped playing the piano. I did not have anyone to share the little things that God was teaching me in my walk with Him, so in-depth Bible study felt kind of pointless. We were experiencing a tough time financially, I was expecting my last child so I missed my sister's wedding, and we started having trouble with our neighbors. To top it all off, our baby was born prematurely and developed a case of whooping cough when he was only one month old so I spent a couple of months sitting in the recliner with him on my chest so that he could breath and cough...

I began to flounder.

Mountain tops would be plains if it wasn't for valleys.

I have been trying to read through the entire Bible {not in one year, obviously} and it was about that time that I got into the Psalms. Every time I picked up my Bible, depression was all that I could see.

About the same time, my sister told me that she had been reading Psalms to her children and said that they were such an encouragement to their family.

"Really!?!" I thought.

They had the opposite effect on me. I struggled to get through all of the gloominess. “How much more ‘why have you forsaken me, Oh God’can I take?” was all I could think.

I wondered if the reason that my heart mirrored these sentiments was because I was reading them, or if  I was reading them at that time because my heart was in the place to mirror those sentiments.

I could not get into the Word of God. I could not get anything OUT of the Word of God! So I set my Bible aside and barely touched it  for about a year.

I don't really know what prompted me to pick it back up again. I just kept hearing that voice in my head telling me that I needed to. I think that at the time I may have felt that it was the voice of Guilt but now I believe it was the still, small voice of the Lover of my soul drawing me back to Him. Slowly my heart was pulled back.

Thus says the Lord:
"The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness..."
The Lord has appeared of old to me saying, "Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with loving kindness I have drawn you. Again I will build you, and you shall be rebuilt, O virgin of Israel! You shall again be adorned with your tambourines and go forth in the dances of those who rejoice...
Jeremiah 31:2-4

I find it interesting that we always think of Mountain Tops as the most desirable place. Maybe because they feel "closer" to God. The views may be breathtaking on a mountain top, but you cannot LIVE on mountain tops because they do not provide the right conditions for growth or rest

VALLEYS are the place to rest, rejuvenate, restore...Valleys may not FEEL closer to God, but (according to the Psalms) they ARE closer!

The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will 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 anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Psalm 23

I've never been to the Holy Land, but I have heard from others that the valleys are not lush and green like the one in this picture. The vegetation is scarce and grows in little clumps here and there. The shepherd has to lead the sheep on many precarious paths, perched on the edges of steep drop offs to get to these little patches of nourishment.

It is not easy.

It is absolutely necessary that the sheep stay close on the heels of the shepherd for their own safety. But a GOOD shepherd knows how to lead them on the dangerous paths and beside the still waters (sheep can float away in a fast moving stream).

Sometimes it takes walking through "the valley of the shadow of death" to LEARN that He is with us.

To turn fear into faith.

To find comfort in His guidance and correction.

To eat at his table - even when our enemies are all around us.

Sometimes when we are on the MOUNTAIN TOP we feel so good. So close to God that we forget how we got there. That He took us to that place. We get comfortable. We can even become prideful in our accomplishments. It takes a walk through the VALLEY of the shadow of death to remind us that we need the Good Shepherd to guide us.

To provide for us.

To teach us humility.

To discipline us.

To show us where to find Peace.

A year ago I started blogging. As I look back over the things that I wrote then, I can still see remnants of that sad place.

Do I think that there will be more valleys in my life? Without a doubt! But I am learning the benefit of clinging to God in those hard places.

And THIS valley taught me that He never lets go of me even when I stop clinging to Him!

sunlit mountain top
beautiful valley


Sunshine for your Soul said...

I can relate on so many levels. I have recently taken up hiking daily & its true on the mountain I feel spiritual...closer to God.
The other thing you said that was interesting was the differences in the way you & your sister viewed psalms. Last year, when I read it I found inspiration & encouragement, but others in my group found sadness and didn't enjoy it. Interesting how our moods affect our perspective!

Jen Ferguson said...

This post brought tears to my eyes. I just had prayer group with 2 of my closest friends and we talked a lot about what it is like to feel God and where we feel them. I am passing this post onto both of them.

joyfully2b4u said...

Thanks for the comments on the valleys =)

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