David wrote, ‘Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me‘ (Psalm 23:4).

That’s the expression and expectation of healthy faith. Not only that God’s presence will go with you, but that there are some dark, deadly shadowed places on this old planet of ours. The valley of the shadow of death exists in this world. I have seen it. So have you. It exists because we live in a fallen world. A healthy faith gets us through that dark valley. Unhealthy faith makes us pretend the valley doesn’t even exist!

David also penned these words:

For troubles without number surround me;
My sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see.
They are more than the hairs of my head,
And my heart fails within me. (Psalm 40:12)

That, too, is an expression of a healthy faith. David told God (who already knew) the precise condition of his heart. And it wasn’t pretty. Earlier in that same psalm, he described this incident from his own life story: I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire and heard my cry. He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God (1-3).

Slimy pits exist in our world just as dark valleys exist. And just as surely as believers must pass through dark valleys, so they occasionally fall into ‘the mud and mire,’ needing rescue, cleansing, and comfort.

It’s true. It’s real. It’s the way things are, and David never shrinks from telling it all. Healthy faith helps us to embrace who we are, what we are, and where we are.

David declares a failing, fallible humanity and a loving, powerful God, who chooses to involve himself in the lives of individual men and women.

We have to embrace the fact that we are a people who must live by grace through faith every day of our lives.

Reality says we are creatures, not the Creator.
We are vulnerable, not invulnerable.
We are flesh and blood, not steel and stone.
We are men and women, not cherubim and seraphim.
We are his sons and daughters; we are not him.

Jesus was so authentic and real that the masses were naturally drawn to him. Unholy people flocked to him – people you would never imagine wanting to be in the presence of God. Because of who he was and how he ministered, they crowded the hillsides and jostled each other on the lakeshores just to be near him. As Luke tells us, ‘The tax collectors and ‘sinners’ were all gathering around to hear him‘ (15:1).

What those tax gatherers and sinners needed, we still need today. We don’t need more religion; what we need, what we must have, is more of Jesus!

Excerpted from the book More Jesus, Less Religion by Steve Arterburn