“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.” (Psalms 23:4)
Metaphorically speaking, we enjoy living life on the mountaintops. We like living high on life. We like being “on top” of everything, like bills, bank accounts, jobs, relationships, and so on. We like it when we feel we are on top of everything, when we “got it all together.”
But, the valleys are a different story. The valleys are those lows and dips in our lives where everything seems so shaky and uncertain. We may feel hopeless, despaired, frightened, and stressed. The valleys intimidate us because all we can see are giant mountains surrounding and towering over us.
The Bible mentions several valleys such as the Valley of Baca, or the Valley of Weeping (Psalm 84:6). Then, there is the Valley of Achor, or the Valley of Trouble (Hosea 2:15), and the Valley of Dry Bones (Ezekiel 37:1-14), but probably the valley we are all most familiar with is the “valley of the shadow of death” in Psalm 23. This valley is not just familiar to us because of the famous psalm. We know all about this valley because we oftentimes are forced to travel through it. With this article, I would like to point out some truths about the valleys of life and suggest some ways we can get through them more easily.
1. Valleys are inevitable
No one goes through life without going through valleys. Oh, how we would love to just stay on the mountaintop where we feel on top of everything, but no matter how hard we try to avoid them, the valleys are sure to pull us into them. Some valleys are short, lasting only a day or a few days, while other valleys are long and seem to last forever. So, if valleys are inevitable, we should learn to brace ourselves for them and learn the best way to get through them.
“Man that is born of a woman is of few days and full of trouble.” (Job 14:1) It is a fact that in this life, we will go through many troubling times.
2. Valleys are unexpected
Rarely do we ever anticipate valleys and troubles in our lives. Most often, they come out of the blue, blind-sliding us. Valleys have no schedule, and they often come without warning, like a flat tire on the way to work.
“Destruction upon destruction is cried; for the whole land is plundered. Suddenly are my tents are plundered, and curtains in a moment.” (Jeremiah 4:20)
We may not be able prepare for the specific problems that pop up in our lives, but if we accept the fact that valleys do and will come unexpectedly, we will not be surprised when they happen.
3. Valleys do not show partiality
It doesn’t matter who you are, how old or young, how rich or poor, valleys happen to everyone. No one escapes valleys. When we go through tough times, we often question, “Why me?” But, the truth is that everyone has their troubles. Everyone goes through their own valleys.
As the wise man, Solomon, says: “As it happens to the fool, it also happens to me.” (Ecclesiastes 2:15)
“All things come alike to all: One event happens to the righteous and the wicked; to the good, the clean, and the unclean; to him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As is the good, so is the sinner; he who takes an oath as he who fears an oath.” (Ecclesiastes 9:2)
4. Valleys never last forever
Valleys may be intimidating, stressful, and heartbreaking, but there are some good points about valleys. For one, all valleys have an end. No matter what we are going through, we will eventually come out of the valley if we don’t sit down and give up. Sometimes, we may feel like there is no end to the valley, but if we just keep moving forward, putting one step in front of the other, we will find the exit sign.
5. Valleys serve a purpose
Another good thing about valleys is that, believe it or not, they serve a purpose. Just like God created the mountains, He created the valleys. When we go through life valleys, we tend to think that they are not normal. “This shouldn’t be happening to me,” we may think. However, just like valleys are a normal part of God’s physical creation, so are life’s valleys a part of God’s purposes.
Why would God want us to go through valleys of discouragement, sorrow, pain, fear, worry, and defeat? Because, valleys shape our character and build our faith. Just like metal is shaped by fire, so are we by troubles.
“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (I Peter 1:6-7)
How can we learn to be faithful to God if we never face trials? How can we learn to trust God if we never face difficult times? Troublesome valleys mold us into something precious and honorable to God.
3 Things to remember when you go through your valley
Read Psalm 23:4 again: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.”
Notice, the verse says “I will fear no evil.” I will NOT fear evil. In other words, I will NOT be afraid!
Also note, it says “I WILL fear no evil. This means it is a choice. We have the choice of whether we are going to be afraid or not be afraid. God wants us to refuse fear. What God told Joshua, He says to us all:
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
Timothy tells us this: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (II Timothy 1:7)
Another point to note in this verse is that it says “though I WALK through the valley of shadow and death, I will fear no evil.” The verse says walk, not run scared, not hide, not sit down and cry, not tremble in our shoes, but WALK. This demonstrates an attitude of confidence, that is having faith that God will see us out of this valley. We will get through this!
Trust in God’s presence
How can we walk through our valleys in confidence without being afraid? Because, God goes with us. Notice what else Psalm 23:4 says: “For You are with me.”
We may go through some deep, dark valleys, but we never go through them alone. God is always with us. Just like He was with the Israelites when they went through the Red Sea and when they wandered in the wilderness, so God is with us when when go through our valleys of troubles. We may not be able to see Him, but He is there. To the Israelites, He appeared in the form of a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. To us, He may appear in some other form, but He is there with us nevertheless.
Earlier in Psalm 23, it says that God “leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” If we go where God is leading us, in the paths of righteousness, we will have nothing to fear.
One of my favorite Bible verses that gives me much comfort in troubling times is Isaiah 43:1-2
“But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed you, I have called you by your name; You are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, And through the rivers, the shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you.”
What’s more, Jesus says “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)
Allow God to protect you
The last part of Psalm 23:4 says “Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”
A shepherd’s rod and staff were tools used to protect sheep. A rod was used as a spear to ward off predators, and a staff was used to draw a wandering sheep back closer to the shepherd’s side or to pull a sheep out of a ditch. King David uses this illustration to show us that God also protects us as we walk through the valleys. God has His ways of protecting us from harm as well as His ways of drawing us closer to Him when stray to far away.
So, the next time you go through a life valley, I encourage you to remember that it will not last forever and that you are alone because God is with you, and God will protect you and lead you out of the valley. And, when you exit the valley, you will come out a stronger person than you were before you entered it.