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Light even in the darkest valley

November 30, 2022

Daily Scripture

Psalm 23:1-5

1 The LORD is my shepherd.
I lack nothing.
2 He lets me rest in grassy meadows;
he leads me to restful waters;
3 he keeps me alive.
He guides me in proper paths
for the sake of his good name.
4 Even when I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no danger because you are with me.
Your rod and your staff—
they protect me.
5 You set a table for me
right in front of my enemies.
You bathe my head in oil;
my cup is so full it spills over!

Daily Reflection & Prayer

As a storm put Christmas Eve at risk in Rudolph, Yukon Cornelius said, “It isn’t a fit night out for man nor beast.” * Our broken world often feels like that. Scholar John Goldingay wrote, “In the second half of [Psalm 23], literal reality pokes through. The psalm is encouraging us to declare our trust that we can face being threatened by the human equivalent of bears, rattlesnakes, and cougars (compare the bulls, steers, lions, and dogs of Psalm 22). God protects us…like a shepherd protecting his sheep.” **

  • In verse 4, “The Hebrew word appears to be a combination of two shorter words that mean “shadow” and “death,” and it is elsewhere related to distress and darkness (see Psalms 44:19; 107:10; Job 3:5; 10:22; 16:16). In this central line of the psalm, the speaker addresses God directly, emphasizing closeness with God.” *** In what ways is it even better to have God with you in the “darkest valley” than having a red-nosed reindeer in a blizzard?
  • Go through today’s reading slowly and prayerfully. After each phrase, ask yourself, “Do I truly believe this down deep, and not just as religious talk?” Consider how meaningful each of these things is, compared to whatever items are at the top of your current personal “wish list.” For each phrase you have internalized, and can honestly say you believe, give God thanks.

O God, you pledge to be with me at even the darkest moments. When the darkness deepens, teach me how to hold ever more tightly to your hand. Amen.

GPS Insights

Picture of Shannon Starek

Shannon Starek

Shannon Starek serves as the Director of Discipleship at Resurrection Downtown. She loves to travel and has been to 49 states, 11 countries and lived in Vancouver, Canada for grad school! When not gallivanting all over the world, she lives in Liberty with her husband, Aaron, and two sons, Owen and Porter.

I love the season of Advent. There is joy and excitement in the air, but what I am drawn to most is the waiting and the longing and the darkness. I like to imagine that I don’t know that Jesus is coming, that I can’t fathom what he will be like, that my heart aches and longs in an unknown way. I imagine I am living the story for the first time.

By the time Jesus was born, the people of Israel had been waiting an awfully long time. Roughly 400 years passes from the time of Malachi (the last book in the Old Testament) to the time of Jesus. That’s a long time to wait. For me, waiting often feels like darkness slowly closing in as hope dwindles and light fades. However, I have found that in times of waiting there are gifts to be found. Darkness can reveal things we can’t otherwise see in the light.

As we enter the season of Advent, something begins to appear that wouldn’t exactly make sense during the summer. In fact, we wouldn’t even be able to see them…Christmas lights! I know the darkness of December can be a hard thing to adjust to, but if the darkness didn’t come, we surely wouldn’t see the glowing, cozy lights of Christmas.

While I love the glow of the Christmas light all around, I wouldn’t be able to see these little “gifts” were it not for the darkness. In her book, Learning to Walk in the Dark, Barbara Brown Taylor shares this beautiful truth…

“I have learned things in the dark that I could never have learned in the light, things that have saved my life over and over again, so that there is really only one logical conclusion. I need darkness as much as I need light.”

I have lived enough life to know that there are much “darker” things than the fading of the sunlight each day. Pain from broken relationships. Battling illness. Facing the holiday season for the first time without a loved one. We can each name the “darkness” we are walking through, or have walked through in the past. Yet Advent reveals Emmanuel, God with us. God is with us on the brightest of days and in the darkest of nights.

So may we enter into this season of waiting and longing and darkness with our hearts open to the truth that there are things to learn in the dark that we could never learn in the light.

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

“Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer Quotes.” STANDS4 LLC, 2022. Web. 21 Nov. 2022.,_the_red-nosed_reindeer_quotes_9778.

** John Goldingay, Psalms for Everyone, Part 1: Psalms 1–72. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2013, p. 76.

*** J. Clinton McCann, Jr. comment on Psalm 23:4 in The CEB Study Bible. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2013, p. 864 OT.