Even when I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
protect and comfort me.
There was an old cemetery in the middle of my college campus, with graves dating back to the Civil War. With the sun shining outside, the cemetery was just a weird relic to walk past without much thought, but at night, that graveyard became eerie and always seemed a little darker than the rest of campus. Every once in a while, we would take a detour through the cemetery, just for fun and to let ourselves feel a little bit afraid. Some dark places are like that, places we can easily choose to avoid, but there are other dark valleys in our lives that we are forced to walk through. The dark valley of cancer. Or divorce. Or a lost job. Or depression. Or the death of a loved one. Sometimes, we have to pass through the darkness, and David’s words can give us courage.
David had experienced the “right paths” (v. 3) and the “darkest valley” (v. 4). In both cases, he knew that God was with him. David also knew better than to fall for the deception that people of faith never have to go through hard times. We live in a broken world full of people who hurt each other. We have frail bodies that get sick and injured. We endure hardship from natural causes and from sinful choices. There are many dark valleys in this world, and sooner or later, we will all have to pass through one. What David learned as a shepherd and later as a husband, father and king, is that in the midst of the darkness, God remains “close beside.” Even in fearful places, we don’t need to be overwhelmed by the fear, because our mighty God protects us and comforts us.
If you are stranded in a dark valley today, start looking for God’s rod and staff, the Shepherd’s weapons to fight off what threatens you. They aren’t your weapons; they are God’s. You may not be strong enough to fight, but He is. The Lord may send friends or your church family to encourage you. The Spirit may speak Biblical words of comfort into your heart. God may fight against the darkness with miraculous power beyond your ability to explain. He will wield rod and staff to defend you, so with David, you can declare in faith, “I will not be afraid!” Then again, if you are walking in green meadows today, enjoying God’s blessing and peace, tuck David’s words away in your heart. Each of us has to walk through a dark valley sometime, and it’s good to carry with you a steadfast faith in the Shepherd’s protection and comfort.
Father, You are loving and strong. Help me to feel Your presence during hard moments and give me faith to walk with You through dark valleys. Teach me to trust You, and use me to encourage others in their times of need. I pray this in the name of Jesus my Savior. Amen.
Pastor Mike Mirakian