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, ESV).
These are some of the most familiar words ever written: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” They also ring with courage. In the original Hebrew, the phrase “the shadow of death” is one word depicting a deep ravine through which a shepherd would lead his sheep in order to take them to better pasture. On that treacherous walk, a time would come when the cliff walls became so narrow and sheer that the very sunlight was blocked out.
“We don’t camp in the valley; we walk through it.”
The valley of the shadow of death looks different for different people. But it represents the hardest times of life, the darkest nights of the soul, the deepest, loneliest places we pass through. Whatever creates a sense of hopelessness can be called a shadow in the valley.
The first word of this verse—“even”—has such weight. Everything God has revealed about Himself is true. Even in the darkest times. Even when life turns hard. Even when we feel hopeless.
Never does the faith of a believer shine more brightly than in the most difficult moments. I’ve seen people who have lost everything respond with faith, even in the most desperate, devastating circumstances. Even in those dark valleys, the people of God raise the flag and point to Christ.
You may think you couldn’t go through a valley like that—and you would be right. You couldn’t do it, alone. But God promises His presence. In the darkest valley, He is with you. David links his confidence to that truth: “I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”
That valley might feel endless. You might fear, The rest of my life will be in this valley. I’ll never laugh again. I’ll never again enjoy a simple pleasure. But we don’t camp in the valley; we walk “through” it. As dark as it might seem in the moment, it won’t always be that way. You won’t always be living your life in that desperate place. The seasons of hardship and even the deepest valleys will come to a conclusion.
God brings you “through,” and He’s with you every moment. He repeats this promise in Isaiah 43:2, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” That’s a sure, consistent promise from God to His children: whatever you walk “through,” He is right there with you.
Father God, You are my shepherd. Thank You that even in the darkest times, You are who You say You are. Thank You that You don’t leave me indefinitely in the valley, but You bring me through it. And thank You most of all for Your presence. You never leave me alone. You are always with me—no matter what, no matter when, no matter for how long. In the name of Jesus, the Good Shepherd (John 10:11), I pray, amen.