HE IS WITH YOU
by Jennifer Rothschild
IT WAS A TRENDY RESTAURANT with birdcages hung across the ceiling and old church pews for seats. The menu was eclectic — have you ever eaten a brussel sprout goat cheese pizza? And the company? Well, I was with my husband, Phil, so I loved the place — I loved everything about it. I loved it until I entered the ladies room, that is.
The restaurant decorator carried the urban barn theme into the bathroom. It was all wood and brick and totally funky and eccentric and … confusing. Here’s why.
I began to lose my eyesight as a teen due to a disease called Retinitis Pigmentosa. Now, four decades later, my world is totally dark.
So, having to navigate through all that creativity alone was hard. Straight lines and predictable layouts are much easier. Strange twists and turns may appeal to the eye, but they don’t appeal to those who can’t see and have to navigate alone.
The stalls were all crammed together in the tiny space, so I used my cane and ran my hand across the wooden doors until I found an opening. But here’s the thing, the stall was at a weird angle and after I made my way into it, I realized every wall felt the same — so no matter what wall I put my hand on, nothing made sense. It all felt the same — grooves, slats, hinges, bolts, and decorative metal. Nothing felt like a door once I was inside the stall.
I was in the restroom alone. My husband was waiting outside and there wasn’t another woman in there. (Actually, I’m glad of that. I would’ve been humiliated!) Getting into the stall was no problem because the stall door swung behind me and evidently clicked itself shut. But getting out? Well, that was a problem. Where is the latch?! Where is the door?! Where is the handle?! There were so many hinges and handles inside of that stall that I couldn’t determine which ones were decorative and which ones could get me out of that cage of confusion.
I panicked. I felt an overwhelming dread come over me, not knowing how I got so turned around and how I could get myself out. Phil must have heard me from outside the restroom door. I’m not sure what he heard, to be honest. Maybe it was a strange banging and clawing coming from the stall! He poked his head inside the restroom and asked, “Honey, are you OK?” I’m not sure what I said but it was obvious to him that I wasn’t OK, so he marched right into that women’s restroom and knocked on the outside of each stall door until he found me.
When I pulled the latch and tumbled out I was fighting back anxiety. I just wanted out of there!
When he asked me what happened, I tried to explain but I couldn’t because really, I didn’t know. All I knew was I got disoriented — I felt stuck, afraid, confused, and vulnerable.
Even though I’m a little embarrassed about my bathroom breakdown, I share this with you because we’ve all been there — in a sense. We’ve all got our stuff that makes us feel afraid, confused, and vulnerable. Sometimes it’s difficult relationships, discouraging situations, a chronic or fatal diagnosis, and even painful memories. I’ll just call them valleys. And when we find ourselves there, we can feel vulnerable and long for a rescue, a shelter … a Shepherd for our souls.
The Lord is our Shepherd and He is with us in our valleys.
“Even when I go through the darkest valley, I fear no danger, for you are with me; your rod and your staff—they comfort me” (Ps. 23:4).
Valleys may bring out our fear, but they also bring us closer to our Shepherd.
So if you’re in a valley, you may not be able to get out of it, but here are some ways you can get through it.
Run to Your Shepherd
When sheep get startled, their little hooves are instantly in motion running straight to their shepherd. They know he will protect and keep them safe.
The Lord says we are the “sheep under his care” (Ps. 95:7). That means when we’re startled by our situations and feel the urge to run because our circumstances are pressing in, we can run to our Shepherd first. He will protect us. We can trust Him and feel safe with Him. We’re comforted in His presence. We find clarity when we listen to our Shepherd’s voice — His Word.
So don’t run from your situation, run toward your Shepherd instead for He is with you in your valley.
“I call to you from the ends of the earth when my heart is without strength” (Ps. 61:2).
Focus Your Prayer
Sheep don’t wake up each morning feeling anxious about how they will get through the day. They don’t fixate on their situations; they focus on their shepherd. And when it comes to this quality, we do need to be even more like sheep. When we try to fix something, we fixate on it. In other words, if you spend all your emotions and time trying to figure out or fix your valley situation, then your focus is your valley. It becomes the biggest issue on your mind and the heaviest burden in your heart.
When you pray, you get a better perspective of your God and your problems. You see all that is overwhelming you is small compared to your Shepherd’s great ability to clean up your mess, meet your needs, or comfort you in your pain. So don’t try to fix your problem; focus your prayer instead.
“Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Phil. 4:6).
Receive God’s Strength
Have you ever seen sheep working out so they’ll be strong enough to make it in case their shepherd leads them across bumpy terrain? Of course not! If sheep had higher-order thinking they wouldn’t even entertain the thought of needing to be strong because they know their shepherd is strong. And if the shepherd leads them somewhere difficult, he will carry them.
Our Shepherd will do the same for us; when we’re weak, He’s strong. If He leads us through valleys that are too difficult, He will carry us.
It’s OK to feel weak and need strength — we’re just sheep who need a Shepherd. So many things in this life are over our heads and beyond our abilities. But nothing we face is out of God’s control and nothing is too hard for Him. God’s power in us is so much greater than our own strength. Our strength is like gravel compared to the rock that is God’s strength.
Don’t rely on your own strength. His strength will be enough to get you through your valley.
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness’” (2 Cor. 12:9).
My friend, we can’t always change our valleys but we can always change our attitudes and choices in those valleys.
God can use our temporary valleys to create everlasting good for and in us. That’s what He is doing for me every day in my blindness — even on my most anxiety-inducing days. I know God will do that for you too. So run to your Shepherd, focus your prayer, and receive His strength. You may not be saved from the valley but you’re always safe with your Shepherd. •
Jennifer Rothschild is a nationally known author, speaker, and Bible study teacher who has written 14 books, including the bestsellers Lessons I Learned in the Dark, and Me, Myself and Lies. In February, Jennifer completed filming her sixth video-based Bible study, Psalm 23: The Shepherd With Me.
This article originally appeared in HomeLife magazine (August 2018). For more articles like this, subscribe to HomeLife.