A fellow blogger wrote today about how God allows us to go through difficult times in our lives so that we might grow spiritually stronger. It got me thinking and so I wanted to expand on and add my own thoughts to this concept, which was based on Psalm 23:4. I want to look at the whole of Psalm 23, and particularly at the prepositions:
1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
In these first three verses, we find the prepositions “in” and “beside.” These are both words that suggest a stationary position. I like the thought of being in green pastures and beside quiet waters. And being in the paths of righteousness with God is a wonderful place to stay.
4 Even 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.
In this verse, we find the preposition “through.” As I commented on my friend Rani’s blog, this verse doesn’t say we are camping out or taking up residence in the valley of the shadow of death. Rather we are traveling through it. This is a wonderfully comforting thought to me, as it reminds me that no matter what difficulty I might be experiencing it is only temporary. On top of that, I am not traveling through the trial alone — God is with me all the way, all the time.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD
In verses five and six, after traveling through the valley of verse four, we have before us a table prepared by God. And in front of our enemies, no less! What more could we ask for than goodness and love all of our lives and to “dwell in the house of the Lord forever”? This is where that valley of the shadow of death leads. We could possibly avoid the valley, but at what cost?
As I’ve worked my way through this Psalm (no pun intended), I noticed one other thing. The paths of righteousness come before the valley of the shadow of death. It seems that is the key to arriving on the other side of the valley to dwell in the house of the Lord. If we don’t allow God to lead us in the paths of righteousness, perhaps the valley is more difficult, even impossible, to traverse safely. The journey through may be longer and fraught with more peril than necessary if we take a different path.
Are you traveling through a valley right now? If so, are you following the paths of righteousness prepared by our Lord so that you will safely reach the other side of the valley? He is waiting to lead you if only you will follow.
As a side note, I wrote the title of this post to include the words “important” and “preposition” because those words are in the top 5 of search terms that have brought people to this blog. I’m pretty sure these people aren’t looking for a spiritual answer, but perhaps they will learn a bit more about the blessing of following God as they pass through. (If you are one of these seekers, please leave a comment. I’d love to know what you think about what you have learned here about the importance of prepositions.)