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.
This is a very common passage for most of us. Whether or not you are familiar with Christianity or have attended many church worship services, you have likely encountered sayings concerning the valley of the shadow of death or I will fear no evil.
Unfortunately, though it may be a trite saying – most of us do not dive deeper into this passage to find a deeper meaning. Therefore, I would like to take this opportunity to take a closer look at the principle behind Psalm 23:4.
Let’s start out with some cross-references, to get a wider perspective of the topic. When I read the excerpt above, I can’t help but think of Isaiah 43:1-2 and James 1:2-5.
Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
As you can see, the overarching theme of these three verses is suffering. However, there is something more to these passages than just the notion of trials – and the “something more” is typical not received well.
God allows us to go through suffering.
That’s not easy to swallow – and it is definitely not something we like to claim. However, it is more than clear in these texts; we will pass through the waters, through the fire, and through the valley of the shadow of death. The passages do not suggest that God will we bring us out, take us around, our guide us over the trials (no matter how bad we wish that was the case). The Lord takes us through the tough times; we are made to suffer and endure.
Now this may seem cruel, but it is truly just the opposite. God allows us to go through difficulties for our own good – that we might be transformed and refined, emerging on the other side of trial as one stronger and more Christ-like. Out of His tremendous love for us, the Lord allows us to go through tremendous amounts of pain so that we may become better people and that He may reach out to others through.
Just think of those in the Early Church, who were dispelled from Jerusalem via persecution; if it had not been for such awful circumstances, they would not have become legendary evangelists and the Gospel would never have left Palestine.
The best part is the promise He attaches to this truth. Though we are certain to face trials of many kinds, the Lord has promised that He will never leave us to suffer on our own; we will always have the presence of God, comforting and guiding us the entire way. What an amazing promise! He will always be there – strengthening us with every step.
Yes, we will be put through terrible circumstances in the lifetime (it is inevitable), but we are never forced to endure them alone.
I know that, in the face of tribulation, is it natural to pray for deliverance. However, I urge you to reconsider your mindset. Deliverance will come in time – it always does; therefore, make a priority of asking the Lord for strength, direction, peace, and comfort as we walk through the valleys of the shadow of death.