David began his Psalm reflecting on the joys of green pastures, quiet waters, and right paths. It suddenly feels like he’s taken a hard turn as we suddenly find ourselves in a dark valley. Wait! Can’t we just stay in the green pastures by the quiet waters? Where I lack nothing? Let’s just stay on that topic! Wait! Can’t we go back to the beginning of 2020? When our calendars were full, and we were dreaming and planning for a wonderful year? David, perhaps we need to stop for directions, because this dark valley feels like a wrong turn.

But…just because we are in the darkest valley, doesn’t mean we are no longer on the right path.

On the third day after the crucifixion of Jesus, two of his disciples were walking to Emmaus, a village near Jerusalem. One is Cleapas, but the name of the other disciple is unknown to us. As they traveled, they were talking about all that had happened. Suddenly, Jesus joined them, but they were kept from recognizing Him. He inquired about their conversation and they began to explain about Jesus (yes, they were talking about Jesus to Jesus Himself. Strange, I know.):

“He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.” – Luke 24:19-21

We had hoped.

I don’t know of three sadder words in all of scripture.

Let’s place ourselves in this scene. In fact, I like to think that one reason Luke didn’t identify the other disciple is so that we can envision ourselves in his/her place. So, imagine….how are we feeling? What are we thinking? Perhaps we would’ve elaborated…

For a little more than three years, we’ve been following Jesus of Nazareth. He spoke with such authority! We witnessed him perform so many signs and miracles. We gave up everything to follow him! We walked away from our jobs, and some even ridiculed us for doing so. But, we believed. We had hoped that he was who he claimed to be. But, now that hope is dead. It’s lying in a tomb. Now what do we do? We feel so lost, broken, and dismayed. To think we were once so certain He was the Savior of the world. What’s going to become of us now?

Today, facing the coronavirus crisis, I imagine we can all relate to these words.

We had hoped…

  • our business would not have had to close its doors.
  • I would not lose my job.
  • to visit my elderly parent in the hospital.
  • my loved one would have survived.
  • I would not get sick.
  • our marriage could survive this stress.
  • God would put an end to this by now.
We are living in unprecedented times. The entire world is walking through the darkest valley.
“Even though I walk through the darkest valleys,” Psalm, 23:4
David understood these words. He lived them. He faced betrayal, leading through times of heavy discord, seasons of overwhelming shame, struggles with doubt and fear, the loss of loved ones. David endured trials of many kinds. He earned the right to pen these words; we can trust his credibility. Let’s look more closely…

Three highlights from our passage:

  • Walk. Walk? Can’t we run? Couldn’t David find us a strong horse, a train, even a swift donkey? Anything to speed us through this dark valley we’ve found ourselves in? No, he used the word “walk” for a reason. We are in a dark valley; visibility is limited. The valley is rocky and dangerous. We must walk– slowly and carefully, taking each step with care. As much as we long to be on the other side of this valley, there is no rushing through it.
  • Through. We are walking through. We are not lying down as we did in the green pastures. We aren’t setting up camp. This season will end. We will get through it.
  • Comma. There is a “comma” at the end of this phrase, not a period. Spoiler alert, there is more to the story.

Jesus, as we approach Holy Week, help us to keep our eyes on You. When the news of this dark valley become overwhelming, when we want to sprint through it, give us the wisdom for the next best step to take. One at a time, as we walk through this valley.
Amen.