I hope you are having a great day in the Lord. This is another devotional to encourage you in your walk with Christ.
Going Through a Dark Valley
“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.”
Are you going through a very dark, depressive, and lonely time right now? Maybe so dark that you can’t even see the light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe you feel as if everyone has abandoned you. It may be light outside, but it is dark on the inside of your soul. How do we bear such darkness and times of despair?
Psalm 23:4 offers hope to those who are living in dismal times. David, the author of Psalm 23, affirms that we will walk through dark valleys. The phrase, “shadow of the valley of death” is a phrase that describes darkness. It is the strongest description of darkness in the Old Testament. David is not talking about death, but rather the shadow of death. It is descriptive of a very dark, gloomy, and possibly even dangerous time. Some translations use the phrase, “the darkest valley.” Using the figurative image of shadow, it is important to note there has to be light in order for there to be a shadow. In other words, the Lord’s light is always shining behind the shadow.
It is interesting in verses 1-3 David uses the third person (He) to describe the LORD, but in verse 4 he changes to the second person (you). He moves from talking about the LORD to talking to the LORD. When darkness comes, our prayers change and go deeper and more personal. Not only this, but the LORD draws closer to us in a more personal way. Even though this verse states we will walk through the valley, it also promises we will not be alone without the LORD leading us.
What is the purpose of the valley? With the backdrop of the biblical setting, a valley is a deep ravine with mountains on each side. According to Phillip Keller, the author of A Shepherd’s Look at Psalm 23, the shepherd leads the sheep through the valley so they can arrive at the high, rich grazing lands on the mountains.
Outside of the biblical narrative, there are many reasons why we go through valleys in life. We live in a fallen, sinful world and we are not immune to dark times of suffering. We may go through a valley due to our sin, someone else’s sin, or maybe a time of testing. We may go through valleys of grieving. They can also be times of deep heartbreak and suffering. Whatever the reasons, the Lord is present to comfort and guide.
We must cling even closer to the shepherd in dark times. One interesting fact about sheep is they are not burden bearers. You will never see sheep caring a load of rocks or pulling a plow. They were not created for these responsibilities; their anatomy will not allow this to take place. These are the responsibilities for oxen. In the same way, you and I were not created to bear heavy burdens. We must turn to the Lord to carry out burdens. Psalm 68:19 states, “Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.”
Due to the presence of the shepherd, David has no fear— “I will fear no evil.” The presence of evil await the sheep as they travel through the valley. On the sides of the ravine, wild beasts wait to attack the sheep. It is significant that the sheep stay close to the shepherd for his protection. David’s emotions are kept under control with the presence of the shepherd. The presence of the LORD makes all the difference in our lives. The greatest threat we face is that of evil. Evil can take on many forms, but ultimately Satan our enemy is behind all evil. The greatest fear David can face does not alarm him due to the presence of his shepherd.
David is also comforted by the shepherd’s rod and staff. The rod is a symbol of the shepherd’s strength, power, and authority in any serious situation. The staff was used to guide the sheep and to draw them closer to the shepherd. Both of these tools were used to protect the sheep (Keller). Knowing the LORD is fully equipped to overthrow and defeat all forms of evil brings David comfort.
What does God teach us in the valley of darkness? Valleys of darkness can be a sifting time to remove those things which hinder our relationship with the Lord. They can also be times of testing to grow our faith, as well as times where Satan attacks us. They can be times where we learn to depend upon the Lord, and times used to draw us closer to Him. From the context of Psalm 23, the pilgrimage through the dark valley is part of God’s plan for his sheep, and the shepherd leads the sheep through this circumstance to arrive at the determined destination.
How long does one stay in the valley of darkness? Sometimes the length of the valley depends upon how we respond to suffering by allowing the Lord to comfort us. Sometimes it’s a process to maturity. We may not have a definitive time of how long one stays in the valley, but there is hope because of the shepherd’s leadership. David “walks through” the valley and does not stay there. Are you in a valley today? Rest in the arms of your loving shepherd, trusting in His care, love, provision, and leadership. Your contentment is found in Him.
Prayer: Father, I don’t understand why I am going through this time of darkness, but I pray you help me find my contentment in you. I need you to be my peace and security. Help me to delight in you and your love for me. Use this time to remove everything that is a hindrance in my relationship with you.
Your prayer response:
Pastor, Senior Adults