The Valleys of the Shadow of Death

“Even though I walk through the darkest valley…” (Psalm 23:4).

The way I learned to memorize the 23rd psalm is, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadows of death.”

The NIV translators instead go with, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley.”

Darkest valley.

Valley of the shadows of death.

Both places sound pretty scary. Both sound like unpleasant and frightening places to be. I

prefer the older translation. If you do too, you would be closer to what the Hebrew actually says because that’s exactly the words the Hebrew uses.

What I find interesting about this portion of the psalm is that the location of one of the most beloved psalm is in one of the most frightening places. The peace that God offers his sheep isn’t only in green pastures and quiet waters. The peace that God offers is also present in the valley of the shadows of death. And, that is what makes this psalm so amazing.

It’s easy to experience peace in green pastures and beside still waters. But that’s not when I need God’s peace the most. The place I need God’s peace the most is when life is scary, hard, threatening. And, this is when you need God’s peace the most too.

The good news is that even in the valley of the shadow of death, even when death is staring you in the face, you need not fear for God’s peace is there too. In fact, the New Testament writers tell us that nothing can separate us from the love of God. There is not a square inch in the created universe where God’s peace is not present.

Life, because it is life, has moments of delight and happiness:

  • the birth of a child
  • the moment you discover the love of your life
  • the moment when you graduate from school

Life, because it is life, has moments of terror and pain:

  • the death of a loved one
  • when you hear the words, “It’s cancer”
  • every failure you’ve ever experienced

No matter what you are facing in life, in both the green pastures and quiet waters and in the very midst of the valley of the shadow of death, God is there. God’s peace is with you.

That’s good news. That’s great news.

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