The 23rd Psalm is probably the best known and most quoted of all the Psalms because it speaks words of comfort in our sorrows: “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me. Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.”
I used to read these words and mentally file them away as though they had been given for a distant journey; the unknown appointment of my departure from this earthly life to the eternal one. But I have come to realize that I put boundaries around this passage of Scripture that were never assigned to it by God. Maybe I’m just slow to get it, but it has become clear that we can walk through the valley of the shadow of death a multitude of times because our lives are deeply connected to others. In our love for them, great sorrow comes in their valley.
These times of anguish are multiplied by the shadowy presence of fear and regret. Fear that life has been permanently altered this side of heaven and regret that intentions can no longer be fulfilled. The “what now” and “what if” questions accompany our walk in the valley of the shadow and they seem formidable. But they are not from God. They are torments from the Adversary, whose desire is to deceive and defeat us and oppose the promises God has given us throughout His Word ~ as this Psalm so clearly conveys. We are never alone. The believing one we love has journeyed to the other side and those that remain earthbound have not been abandoned to take up residence in this place of sorrow. We have been comforted by the assurance that the Lord Himself walks us through ~ our loved ones through heaven’s gate and us to courageous living.
In truth, shadows are nothing to fear. They are simply areas where the light is blocked by an object. The Adversary does his best to darken the light of Christ whenever possible, but the form he casts is fading. Regardless of the loss, shadows that fall upon a believer are filtered through the cross and hope streams in.
Are you in the valley? Then take God at His Word. Fear no evil, for the Lord is with you. The rod of His leading is assurance that He knows the Way and the staff of His guidance reaches out in mercy so that you may be strengthened in the journey.
One day the shadow of death will vanish. Permanent Light will overcome it ~ in a moment ~ when the trumpet sounds and the Lord descends. Jesus, who walked triumphantly out of the tomb has promised eternal light and life to those who know Him as Savior. Until that hour, whether we remain here or are called Home, we are sustained by the power of the Life-Giver and comforted by His promise that we will step out of the land of shadows and into the house of the Lord forever.