Scripture: 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. Psalm 23:4 (NKJV)

Observation: There are four words/expressions in the first part of this verse that are very significant:
1. Though – the hope we have is that “even if” we have to experience death, God is with us.
2. Walk through – which indicates that death is temporary, that is, we don’t remain dead forever.
3. Shadow – Even the shadow of death is frightening, but it has no real power to harm us, at least permanently.  As  unpleasant and forbidding as death may be, ultimately it can’t do any real harm to the child of God. Henry T. Mahan writes: ‘… Christ has removed the substance of death and only a shadow remains. A shadow is there but cannot hurt or destroy.’
4. Valley – a valley is a deep place compared to the mountain peaks.  That’s what makes death so painful and foreboding, that it brings us down to the lowest depths of feeling.  At the same time, valleys are usually peaceful and tranquil, a place of peace and comfort.

Application: We can apply these words of the psalmist to several situations:
1. When we are diagnosed with a disease that could potentially end our life.  When told of such disease we can plunge to the deepest, darkest recess of our feelings.  The fear, dread, confusion, anger, denial – all drive us deeper than we’ve ever been
2. When someone we love is diagnosed with such a disease.  It is one thing that experience danger in our lives, but the closest we’ll ever get there is to know a loved one is going through that experience.  In fact, for some of us, we’d rather be the ones dying that to loose a loved one to a terminal disease.
3. When we loose a loved one to death.  While we know that death is part of life, we still can’t accept the fact that it has taken one of our loved ones away from us.  For some time, we plunge deep into that dark valley of dread, despair, and darkness.
4. When we die.  This is probably the easiest passage of all, because “the dead know not anything” (Eccl.9:5).
     The wonderful thing about this verse, is that it doesn’t end with the dark valley of death but rather with the promise that God is with us as we journey through it.  Whether we or a loved one are diagnosed with a terminal disease, or if they die, or if we die, we’re never alone.  God’s rod and staff – symbols of His power and authority, of His presence and guidance – they provide us with the hope and comfort we need to walk through that valley and come to the other side, to the valley of eternal life, with Him.

A Prayer You May Say: Father God, Our gentle, Loving Shepherd, thank You that we don’t need to fear death because Jesus has conquered it.  And thank You that even when we or our loved ones have to taste death it is simply a temporary state until Jesus the Conqueror of death calls us back to life eternal.  Thank You, Father, for walking with us through that dark valley.

Used by permission of Adventist Family Ministries, North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists.



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