Psalm 23 – a Feast in the Valley

It has been ‘full’ in our household these past weeks. With many house guests coming and going, Adam hitting the books again as he finishes off his degree in Pastoral Ministry at Prairie College, and myself starting new programming for families in the surrounding communities with my job as a family coach – things have been busy. Then add our preparation for upcoming events with music & speaking that we are greatly anticipating, and you can see why it has been awhile since we have updated.

… When things get busier, I am always thankful for Psalm 23 – the Psalm of David that ushers me back to a place of quiet – that paints beauty and rest with the imagery of green pastures and quiet streams. It reminds me of the beauty that Adam and I experienced when we lived in the little town of Huntly in Aberdeenshire in Scotland seven years ago.

The air was moist, the trees thick and beautiful, and the path by the nearby stream that led to pastures where baby lambs grazed and played. We spent a lot of time walking, exploring, and resting in the quiet of the hills in which we lived for nearly a year. This was a season of quiet and restoration in our lives; of learning much of who Jesus is as our Shepherd as we entrusted our new marriage and adult lives to Him.

Often when we think of Psalm 23 -this is the only imagery that comes to mind; the lush green pastures where we can be quieted before God. While this is a beautiful picture, this is not nearly the entirety of David’s song. No, though he is led to lie down in green pastures, he is also led down paths of righteousness and into a dark valley, yet unafraid of the evils around him and comforted by the rod and staff of His Shepherd.

And right in the midst of that valley, David says this:

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” (Psalm 23: 5-6)

Right in the midst of our busyness in the past weeks, a day past that reminded us of one of the darkest valleys that we have walked – and often feel like we are still right in the midst of.
Three years ago this month we lost our first little one in a miscarriage, and we are coming on 5 years of longing for a child of our own to be added to our family. This has been a valley of many tears, lots of questions, and a battle with hope and belief in the goodness and love of our Shepherd.
… and yet.
and yet – in the midst of the cover of darkness in a valley that seems utterly threatening and whispers doubt into my ears – I have stumbled upon a table that is lit by the presence of God and set with the richest of fare. For so long I assumed that I would feast as soon as I got out of the valley, when my hopes were realized and my prayers answered.
Instead the goodness and love of my Shepherd has met me right in the midst of this place and set a table before me in the presence of doubt, fear, anxiety, and uncertainty, and as I have chosen to sit with Him and to taste His grace, His Word, His presence- my cup has begun to overflow.

Just as Habakuk said,
” Though the fig tree does not bud and there is no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce on food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Saviour. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to go on the heights.” (3:17-18)

Friends – please do not think that these words are a trite answer or have come easily to pen. Those who have and are journeying with us know the many tears, deep ache, and hard questions that have enveloped our hearts over this season. And yet, as I have allowed Him- God has opened my eyes to the table before me right in the midst of the hardship of the valley. Like in the verses above, He has been my strength and enabled me to tread upon the path that He is guiding me on and He has been sufficient in this place – and more than helping me cope- He is restoring my JOY. 

Whatever valley you might find yourself in today, I pray that God would open your eyes to see the table that He has set before you right here in this moment – not when your prayers are answered the way that you long for, not when circumstances change, not when you clean yourself up or sort things out – right now. There is a feast before you. Can you see it?

— Jalene Elsa

Though trouble will meet you along the way and suffering will greet you face to face – do not be afraid.
Though the valley seems so dark and bare, you’ll find a table set with the richest fare. He will be your Peace.

Together you will feast.
{Lyrics from ‘Restored’ by Jalene Elsa}

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