Psalm 23:4 (NKJV) Yea, 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.
We could go deep into the specific meaning of “the valley of the shadow of death” in context of the verse and author but for the sake of this moment in the Word, let’s take the relative view.
What is perceived by each person to be their “valley of shadow” is relative to their experience. If the worst thing that has ever happened to you is someone called you “ugly”, then that’s a big deal for you because it is the worse emotional trauma that you have dealt with in your life.
As we grow older, mature in Christ and experience deeper “valleys”, we must learn to be patient, understanding and compassionate towards those who have not yet endured suffering or hardships as intense as our own. If you have suffered the agonizing death of a child from cancer, not many people would argue that losing a job is as traumatic; but if losing that job is the worse you’ve ever experienced, then that loss is devastating. It’s relative to our experience, so don’t smirk at or shrug off someone who is in a “valley of shadow” that to you seems like no big deal. It takes maturity to recognize when someone is melting down over something childish or petty versus recognizing that their “valley” is simply relative to their life experience.
I remember one time sitting in a Bible study at church a few years ago when we were in the darkest hours of our daughter’s battle with cancer. It was horrible. She was suffering to the point where half the time we wanted her to live, and half the time we would have welcomed death to relieve her agony. In that Bible study, someone was in tears, sharing how some people at their job were talking behind their back and telling lies about them. My first response in my own heart was “big deal… that’s nothing”. I was immediately convicted by God, and reminded that you cannot dismiss the emotional suffering of others simply because they have not experienced trials as great as your own. For them it was a huge, gut-wrenching “big deal” because it was one of the worse things they had endured in their young life.
That’s the first lesson I want you to consider. The 2nd is that there is no “valley of shadow” too deep that God is not there to comfort and guide you through it. If you are enduring insults from others (too often from other Christians which hurts even more), or you just found out your spouse is cheating on you… God will comfort you and see you through.
If you are dealing with lies told about you, or grieving over one of your children who has decided they don’t care about that “God stuff” anymore… God is by your side helping you walk through it. If you have lost your first job, or lost your home and all you own to a fire… God knows and cares and is there for you. If you are lonely and discouraged, or have been betrayed by the person you trust the most, God understands your sorrow and has compassion and grace in abundance waiting for you.
Think It Over: The “valley of the shadow of death” is relative to our experience. Whatever is the greatest hurt or trial we have ever suffered, that becomes our “valley” for that time in our life. Though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, no matter what circumstances are the ingredients, you have no reason to fear, no reason to lose heart. God is with you. God is your staff (your help, your support, your protection). God will comfort you. You need only to draw close to God.