No one goes looking for hard times to go through, but no one escapes them, either. David described encountering and overcoming the valley of the shadow of death. What kind of hardship is your valley of the shadow of death? A path in a valley might wind through a dense forest. In David’s time, there might not even have been a real path. It might be impossible to see very far ahead. In this metaphorical valley, when we don’t know quite where we’re going, I can attest from personal experience how easy it is to be afraid. How can we come to David’s boldness in claiming to fear no evil?
First, this familiar verse begins, “Yea, though I walk through.” If I am walking through, it means I will come out on the other side. Walking through specifically means that I don’t balk at entering the valley or stop along the way to cower in fear of the shadow. I don’t wander around without purpose. It means that I’m not looking for a way around the valley. In fact, as long as I keep walking, there is no evil in the valley, only its shadow.
God himself walks with each of us through our valleys. We can encounter much that seems like evil, but God is the good shepherd. Sheep tend to wander. They don’t see very clearly or look very carefully. On their own, they might follow any number of attractive but dangerous ways. So God uses the shepherds tools–rod and staff–to protect us from going astray.
Once we finish walking through the valley, we’ll come to the other side. We’ll find an easier, more pleasant path for a while. Perhaps we’ll recognize that much of what seemed evil was God, applying his rod and staff to keep us safe. But why wait? We can cling to God while we’re still in the valley. We can listen attentively for his voice, with full assurance that we will hear it. We can walk with hope in the promise that we will come to the other side of the valley. We just have to walk through.