Walking Through the Valley
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“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.”—Psalm 23:4
One of the common sources of stress is loss. You can lose a loved one, your health, your ministry position, your money, or your reputation.
When people experience loss, they usually have one of the two most common reactions: fear and grief. ... Grief will not destroy you if you let it out. … Not once in the Bible does it say, “Grieve not,” “Sorrow not,” “Weep not,” or “Cry not.” What it does say is “Fear not.” And it says that 365 times! …
David says in Psalm 23:4, “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.”
Shepherds always carry a rod and a staff to protect their sheep. David knew that in the same way, God has the tools to protect him, and he trusted God, even in the darkest valleys.
Perhaps you are going through the valley of the shadow right now—maybe the valley of the shadow of death. It may be the valley of the shadow of debt. It may be the valley of the shadow of conflict. It may be the valley of the shadow of depression. It may be the valley of the shadow of discouragement.
Shadows are scary. But here are some truths you need to remember about shadows:
First, shadows can’t hurt you.
Second, shadows are always bigger than their actual source.
Third, wherever there’s a shadow, there has to be a light.
You can’t have a shadow without light. So when you’re going through the valley of the shadow, turn your back on the shadow and look at the light. Because as long as you keep your eyes on the light—Jesus, who is the light of the world—the shadow won’t scare you.
That’s how you go through the valley of the shadow of death. … You trust God in the dark valleys, just like David did, who prayed, “When I am ready to give up, he knows what I should do” (Psalm 142:3).—Pastors.com
I love Psalm 23. Perhaps it’s because I especially love the verses about being in calm, beautiful, and peaceful situations: “He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (Psalm 23:2–3). In that short chapter, just six verses, you get a brief picture of the cycles of life—the highs and lows, the good times and bad, the peaceful and chaotic. Yet through it all, one thing remains: God’s presence. The enduring and unchanging truth: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1).
I naturally feel God’s presence more during times of peace and plenty. We don’t usually need to be reminded of God being with us during such times, because we already feel it—we’re in the green pastures and beside the still waters.
Sometimes, though, when things go haywire or not according to plan—the “dark valley” parts of life—I start to feel less like He’s with me. I’m going through a dark valley time right now. And unfortunately, I’m impatient. I want the challenge over and done with. I want God to supply what I need right away. I want to move from the “dark valley” part to the “green pasture” part as quickly as possible—and when I get there, I know I will want that portion of my life to last as long as possible before I’m interrupted by another dark valley.
I read a quote this morning that clearly expressed my natural inclination and yet reminded me that God’s perspective and plan is so much bigger and better than mine. Here’s the quote:
“God relishes surprise. We want lives of simple, predictable ease—smooth, even trails as far as the eye can see—but God likes to go off-road. He places us in predicaments that seem to defy our endurance and comprehension—and yet don’t. By His love and grace, we persevere. The challenges that make our stomachs churn invariably strengthen our faith and grant measures of wisdom and joy we would not experience otherwise.”1
I’d like the stomach churning to end, but I also like the thought that God is loving this ride. I know that He’s somehow going to work things out for my good. And in the meantime, I hope that I will gain all that He has for me to experience before this off-road journey ends and I reach the green pastures again.—Amanda White
Our shepherd intends that we experience his love every day, by living a life that is free from fear … There is not a single day in your future when God will not be seeking you out to give you goodness, to give you love, even in those times when you walk through the darkest valley. David doesn’t say that there won’t be pain; he doesn’t say that there won’t be trouble and distress, but he does say that there will always be goodness, there will always be love, there will always be kindness, hot on your heels.—David Knott2
Do not dread walking through the valley of the shadow of death. My radiant Presence shines brightly in that deep, sunless valley—strengthening, encouraging, and comforting you. Since I never sleep, I am able to watch over you constantly. Moreover, no valley is so deep, no pit so dark, that I cannot see all the way to the bottom of it.
Even if you wander from Me at times and fall into a slimy pit, you can count on Me to rescue you. When you cry out to me, I lift you out of the mud and mire and set your feet on a rock—giving you a firm place to stand. Find comfort in My commitment to help you, even when you slip up.
Whenever you start to feel afraid, remember that I am with you. I’ve promised I will never leave you; I Myself go before you. While you are walking through the valley of adversity, keep these words of comfort flowing through your mind: I will fear no evil, for You are with me.—Jesus3
Published on Anchor March 2023. Read by Jerry Paladino. Music by Michael Dooley.
1 Tony Snow, “Cancer's Unexpected Blessings,” Christianity Today, July 20, 2007.
2 David Knott, The Psalm 23 Life: Experiencing the Love of God Every Day (Pelos Press, 2020).
3 Sarah Young, Jesus Always (Thomas Nelson, 2017).