Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. Psalm 23:4 NIV
The darkest valley. Called the valley of the shadow of death in the KJV version.
Reminds me of our own "valley of death" where Bo and I run. There is no breeze. It's always hot. And coming up out of the valley on one side is a steep hill. The other side is a gradual 1/2 mile climb.
Hard work on both sides.
There was a time in my life when I just couldn't do it. I'd give up and walk instead of run the climbs. Beat myself up along the way because I couldn't do it on my own.
Last fall, Bo and I led a small group study called Run for God. One of my first realizations was that I could run with God as I ran for Him. Realized if I asked for help and gave my run to Him, He would push me out of that valley.
So many times I have asked God to push me out. Push me up the hill. And every time He has shown up. He was with me.
My legs burning. My breath laboring. Gravity slowing me down. Feels like everything is working against me to keep me from coming out of the valley of death.
I want to stop. Give up. Like so many times before.
I just ask God..."push me up this hill. I can't do this on my own." And every time I ask, He does. I know I can conquer those hills and come up out of that valley with His help.
Just like Bo, who has gently put his hand on my back to encourage me and literally, physically give me a push...I can feel God's hand on my back, gently pushing and encouraging.
Just like Bo who has spoken words of encouragement to me as we run together...I can hear God's words of encouragement.
Only when I don't rely on Him do I fail. Stop. Walk. Give up.
Of course I can eventually come out of the valley on my own but there is no celebration or feelings of accomplishment. I feel worn instead of rejuvenated. Defeated.
I need that push! I need that encouragement.
I've made a habit of asking Him to join me on my run. Mostly because I know I will need His push out of the valley. I know I can't run out of that valley without help. On my own, I beat myself up. I tell myself I can't do it. On my own, I fail over and over. I know I need Him in that valley.
And just like I need His help to run out of that valley, we all need His help as we go through low points in our lives. Times when we feel like giving up. Times of fear. Failure. Disappointment. Trouble. Despair.
If God is SO willing to help me run up this valley of death in my neighborhood, He for sure is willing to help us through our other valleys. We just have to remember to ask him to join us.
I've learned that if I ask him to join me on my run before I reach that valley, I have peace and comfort, knowing He is with me....before I ever even reach the first sign of struggle. I'm ready. Prepared.
If I stay with Him on the easy flats and the downhill slopes, I know He's there. I know I'm not in it on my own. And I can trust him and know He will push me out of those valleys and up the big hills.
Oh the celebration of hitting the top of the valley!
The air is moving...wind hits my face. My muscles that worked so hard feel lighter, stronger. And my heart swells, knowing that I conquered that valley.
All because of Him.
And let me tell you....we celebrate! Thankfully it's a not a populated area or I might be a pest with my whooping and hollering.
He tells me every time "see? I told you. Stick with me. I'll get you out of there."
Every time. He never fails me.
I can't do it without Him. Whether it's on a run or in my daily life.
I know that in any valley, He is right there with me. Encouraging me. Pushing me. Getting back up on those easy flats. Celebrating success with me. Staying with me.
There will always be valleys of death. Times of need. Struggle. Pain.
With Him, those valleys aren't as scary. I don't have to fear because He is with me.