Slowing Down in the Valley of the Shadow of Death

When your path takes you into the valleys of darkest shadows where danger and evil may lie in wait, what will you do?

The first three verses of the 23rd Psalm reassure us with the description of still waters, green pastures and restoration.  Then, in verse four, we move from the scene of bucolic tranquility  to “the valley of the shadow of death.”

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.
Psalms 23:4, English Standard Version

I am not very comfortable talking about the valley of shadow of death.  I have walked through the death of parents and parents-in-law.  I have walked through a loved one’s serious illness and through my own health scares.  And yet I still feel unqualified to talk about faith in trials.  I have known many people who have faced more severe trials and often with greater faith.

But the point here is not about the depth of the trial or even our faithfulness. It is about the loving care of the Shepherd.  Sometimes the path we must walk takes us literally to the shadow of death and death itself.  Other times our path takes to places “darkest shadows.”  Several Bible translations opt for that rendering.  Darkest shadows where unknown dangers may lurk; where we can’t always see clearly where we are going.

Whether it is the literal valley of the shadow of death or the more poetic valley of darkest shadows, the Psalmist David reassures us that the good shepherd is still there, guiding and protecting us.  The shepherd’s rod is his defensive weapon – a club to protect his sheep from danger. His rod is used to guide the sheep – to keep us on the path, even when we can’t see where we are going or understand why we are in the shadows. David fears no evil.  Not because there is no evil or danger, but because he is trusting the protection and leading of the shepherd.

When we are living the hurried life and find ourselves in the dark valleys we often hurry all the more.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
if I stay busy enough I can pretend not to notice. 
From the 23rd Psalm for the Hurried Life.

The last thing we think to do is slow down.  We hurry to mask our anxiety and fear in a flurry activity.  We hurry in hopes of somehow speeding ourselves out of the valley.  We keep ourselves busy – too busy to even consider that we may be on the path we are supposed to be on.  We don’t notice the protecting, guiding hand of the shepherd.  We don’t reflect on where we are and turn to the Lord to see his provision, protection and guidance in our times of darkness.

We can learn much from time in the valley of shadows. We can learn as David did that the Good Shepherd is there, leading, protecting, loving, and caring for us.  But we need to slow down enough to be aware of the Lord’s presence.  We need to quite ourselves so we can be attentive to what God would say to us in the valley.

We all find ourselves in the darkest of shadows.  If you are not there now, you will find yourself there sometime. When your path takes you into the valleys of darkest shadows where danger and evil may lie in wait, what will you do? Will you keep yourself busy and distracted in hopes that you will be less aware of the darkness or will you slow down, taking the time to seek the Lord and see his protection and guidance, even when we can’t discern the path?

[This is the third installment of a series looking at The 23rd Psalm for the Hurried Life.]

4 thoughts on “Slowing Down in the Valley of the Shadow of Death”

  1. Paraphrase from Chip Ingram and one I have experienced: it is only when we are content that God can work in our lives. It is only in contentment that we are able to hear God’s quiet voice. It is a whisper that cannot be heard among the storms of life.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Very nice David. In our darkest moments, taking time to hear the whispers hidden within sounds of silence provide solice in times of trouble, any direction to the light of salvation.

    Liked by 1 person

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