Shadow of Death


Psa 23:3 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me;

Life in this Fallen World is a complete mix. There are mixes of people. There are some who are incredibly rich and have everything the rest of us could dream of. There are some who are poor and don’t know how they will make it from one day to the next. But there are also varieties of experience within an individual life. There are times when we are healthy and everything seems to be going well, times when we are happy and contented with not a worry in the world. Then there are times when our health deteriorates and we feel low and every step of life seems hard and difficult. And then it gets worse and before we know it we are walking in the shadow of death. Illnesses and accidents occur and what makes it worse, they come with no warning. It would be so much easier if we received a letter from heaven that said, “In two weeks time we have seen that you will be having a serious accident but don’t worry you will be over it in a month.” But we don’t and so we didn’t expect it and we don’t know how it will work out or how long it will take. The absence of those things makes serious illnesses or serious accidents such harrowing experiences. The walk through the valley of the shadow of death is not a pleasant one!

The description of this experience that we have just used, and which David uses in this psalm, is very graphic. A valley by definition is a low place with high sides where you can feel shut in. In a valley sometimes the sun is shut out and so there are shadows so that part of it seems in semi-darkness. David speaks of the shadow of death, a shadow of darkness that seems to hang over you, threatening to completely obliterate the light from your life, when death comes.

You may find in your Bible a note next to the phrase, valley of death, indicating an alternative rendering, through the darkest valley. It may not be death that threatens; it may be a variety of other things. In our nation we live in confusing times. The news recently was of a couple who were falsely accused of child abuse and for two years their children were wrongly taken from them. For two years they walked through a very dark valley, a valley filled with the darkness of frustration, anger, fear, anguish and so on. It was a horrible time. A woman can accuse a man of assault at work and before he knows what has happened he is suspended pending an investigation which may take months. Whereas we once had a society where you were innocent until proved guilty, there is now, in these sorts of cases, implied guilt until innocence has been proved, and those waiting times are times of immense darkness.

It may be that we have fallen and society is not forgiving. We have done something wrong, sincerely regretted it, asked forgiveness of offended parties, but still the Law is going to take its long, slow process, and while it does, we walk through a very dark valley. We wonder how we could have been so stupid, we wish it had never been found it, we wonder what will happen to us, and we wonder is there any hope of being ever able to walk an ordinary, good life again? These are some of the dark valleys that we find ourselves walking in, and in them we even despair of life itself. What help is there?

David had one hope, one help, “you are with me.” The presence of the Lord, the knowledge of His love, those were the things that kept David going. The concept behind the whole psalm was what upheld David – The Lord is my shepherd. David saw that in life, it was the Lord who led him and therefore if, in their walk together, it involved walking through a very dark valley, David would not worry because his shepherd was there looking after him, guiding him, providing for him, protecting him. As one of God’s sheep he knew the security that, although the place or circumstances of the walk may be temporarily dark, it was temporary and even while they walked it, it was as they walked it together. He was not alone and the One who walked it with him was much bigger than the circumstances and would see him through them.

Because such a thing is so common to the human experience, it is quite possible that you are going through a ‘dark valley’ time. Key questions! Do you know that you are one of God’s sheep, one of His children? Do you know Him as your shepherd who is there for you, looking after you in the midst of the circumstances, providing for you and protecting you? It is this knowledge that enabled Paul to instruct, “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thess 5:18), but note what he says. It is not give thanks for all circumstances but give thanks in all circumstances. You can give thanks that God is there with you and as you put your life in His hands He will provide all you need in that valley to bring you through until you come out the other end. There will be an end, and until you get there, remember, you are not alone, The Shepherd is there with you in it.

5 thoughts on “Shadow of Death

  1. I’m not a very religious person, but am known internationally for my work in helping others wrongly accused of child abuse. The Lord helped me to successfully ward off two potential prison sentences (1985 for false accusations of child sexual battery and 2008 for false accusations of tamperng with a witness to evade prosecution). I believe my rise from victim to victor and in the process becomming an expert in defeating false abuse allegations was God’s plan for me. This was my calling.

    Dean Tong, MSc., Forensic Trial Consultant

    • erik, without knowledge of your circumstances and the nature of your life, I can only make general comments. The following are check points that I would normally check out with people when they say something like this:
      1. Do you know that God loves you and that Jesus died for you so you can come to God without fear?
      2. Are there things in your own life or in the life of your family that might make you and your home vulnerable to ‘darkness’ and which need dealing with?
      3. Do you know Christians who could come and pray with you in your home to get rid of this ‘dark shadow’?
      I realise this may, from your point of view, appear not very helpful but negative answers to the above three questions will reveal some key issues in your life which may need addressing first. Feel free to comment further if that would be helpful.

  2. I am in a valley experience. My husband and I have been accused of something that we did not do and even when the information has been proven false by two different investigations the powers that be are dragging their feet and I don’t see any protection and shielding from God. God has provided for my needs but he continues to allow the situation to go from bad to worse and I don’t know what to do. All the wait on God’s timing He knows what is happening to you only at times hurts more because if He loves me so much why does He not do something I can see??

    • You are clearly going through a grim time and I feel for you. The dark times of life – walking in the valley of the shadow of death – ARE grim times. It comes from living in a fallen world where things go wrong and people are nasty! In such times it is just dark and it is not easy. These, it appears, are times that God allows, times various New Testament writers call ‘testing’ or ‘trials’ but in such times we have to cling on to certain truths: 1. God IS with you in it. 2. God loves you in it. 3. God’s grace IS there for you in it (which is why you survive – stronger) and 4. God WILL bring you through it.
      If we can get hold of God’s grace in these times, we have the opportunity to shine brighter than at any other times in our lives – it’s tough but it can be. You are loved, and you are not alone. He IS for you. If you can, find thing in the situation to praise God for (that’s He’s there for you etc.) – this is not praising for the situation, but God in it. I suspect the thing He is doing is actually in you, but you won’t realise it until you are out the other side, which is hard. Psa 23 is a powerful truth in such times, especially ‘in the presence of my enemies’. Hang on in there and declare those four truths every day.

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