Thursday, July 28, 2022

Following the Shepherd in the Shadows


By: Donna Bucher

Many times we sing the refrain "Follow, follow, I will follow Jesus, anywhere, everywhere, I will follow on...". But what happens when following the shepherd in the shadows is the only course? We talk of praying for God's will and direction, but find it hard to surrender to a direction we don't favor.

Psalm 23 is the quintessential shepherd psalm. It is one I memorized long ago for a number of reasons. It's almost become a cliché instead of God-inspired comfort. But if we re-visit the Psalm, we can see all is not peace and green pastures.

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
     He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
     He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
     for his name’s sake.
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.
You prepare a table before me
     in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
     my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
     all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.


David writes, "even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil." This valley is one of great darkness and unknown danger. Enemies and fear lurk here, it is the place no one chooses to go. But it is the comfort found in even this dark place that endears the Psalm to us.

Following not only involves surrender, but also trust. Following means surrender of your will and choice of direction to the leader. Your ability to surrender in this way rests solely on how much you trust the person you're following. When following the Shepherd in the shadows, consider these lessons from Psalm 23.


  • Remember Who Leads. When the Shepherd leads us into dark valleys, we remember He is the same Shepherd who leads us beside still waters. He makes us lay down in green pastures, He restores our soul. David writes he will fear no evil because God is with him. We trust the Shepherd intended we pass this way.
  • Rest in the Shepherd's Preparedness. David mentions finding comfort in the Shepherd's rod and staff. These constitute the weapons of the Shepherd. David, a shepherd himself knew their use for protecting the sheep. David also speaks of the Shepherd preparing a table before his enemies. Only in the complete protection of the Shepherd can the sheep eat in safety.
  • Consider "why" the Shepherd leads in these paths. Sometimes the Shepherd graciously bids us lie down in green pastures, enjoying a sunny day. Other times He leads us beside still waters refreshing and restoring us. In still other times, we must follow into the shadows learning there to walk by faith, not by sight.
  • Consider "how" He leads. Don't miss one important word, "through". David says the Shepherd leads "through" the dark valley. Not the final destination, the valley represents but a hallway. The Shepherd leads "through" the valley.

Ultimately, in all of the paths the Shepherd leads us, He leads us in "paths of righteousness for His name's sake." He leads us towards things that make us more like Him. Each place He leads, teaches us something. At times we learn to rest in green pastures; sometimes we enjoy the comfort of His presence beside still waters. Then at times, we need to follow Him into the shadows of uncertainty. In all of the paths, His purpose is our eternal good and His glory in making us more like Him.

In His goodness sometimes the dark valleys remain shadows, but not without exception. Sometimes we leave the dark valley touched by death, tragedy, and brokenness. The deliverance so hoped for, never comes.

Yet, you rest in His promise that goodness and mercy will follow you all the days of your life; even the worst days. Knowing that upon all paths the Shepherd leads us, even the path through the valley of death, ultimately leads us to one place; to Him.

Find more encouragement and FREE Resources at Serenity in Suffering!


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  1. Thank you Donna. We can never remember these things too much

  2. Donna, love all your insights on Psalm 23. Very beautiful. I love our Shepherd.


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