Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4
It is amazing how changing one word in a sentence can alter or effect one’s understanding of that simple grouping of words. For years…OK, decades, ever since I was a young boy, I’ve heard the 23rd Psalm a certain way; "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…" Yep, that’s how I first memorized that passage. I’m guessing that is how many of you memorized it too.
The word that so greatly influenced the way I viewed the passage was the word "death." Growing up on a farm and working outside with my dad brought me face to face with the reality of death on many occasions early on in life. Animals died. Favorite pets died. We had to deal with it. So, I was rather literal in my understanding of the 23rd Psalm. When verse four speaks of walking through the valley of the shadow of death…my simple understanding was that it was referring to when a person comes to the point of death in life. Not a bad understanding. God is with us at the end point of life here on earth. Again, not a bad understanding. I can see that would be comforting to know as one gets closer to that moment in life.
Because of this way of thinking, the first time I read a different translation of the 23rd Psalm in which verse four was translated, "darkest valley," rather than "valley of the shadow of death," my eyes and my mind were literally opened to a new way of considering how this passage speaks into my life. Even in the darkest valley, the place where life seems most difficult, where despair seems most real and evident, even in those places God is with me.
When I lived in Sturgis, one of my favorite hobbies for my day off was to go hiking in the hills. I’d start out the hike in the midst of the beauty of the day. The sun would be high in the sky and shining brightly. A great day for a hike! However, there were several times I was caught, mid hike, with the sun setting over the hill tops. It was amazing, and concerning, how quickly darkness filled the valley once the sun was hidden from view.
The above-mentioned hiking experience gave me a new understanding of walking through the darkest valley. It’s not that I expected to go there or to get "caught" in the darkness, but it happened. Sometimes that’s where our journey and life circumstances take us without our expecting it or planning for it…darkness
Darkest valleys… We’ve all been there. We all have them. Some of you as you read this article are walking in that dark place. You wonder, is there light enough to get through, will you find your way out, is there anyone to help, is there anyone that cares? Call me…Let’s talk…There is light!!
This week’s memory verse is a powerful reminder to every one of us, especially those walking in the "darkest valley," there is a source of protection, there is a source of strength, there is one who cares. God, the great shepherd is there; always watching, always guiding, always protecting, always leading the way through.