referencing The Lord is my Shepherd…
I have always thought of this scripture to mean being a perilous state that could lead to physical death like having an illness, driving in a bad winter storm etc. And while the promise of God to be with us rings true, I recently heard a sermon that encouraged me to extend my understanding of this scripture. Shout out to Pastor Kirk Cowman
David experienced the valley of the shadow of death in ways that are more real and relatable than the proverbial valley of the shadow of death so let’s look together at David’s experience from 1 Samuel 21:10-15.
David was having such a hard time of life. David the future anointed king of Israel, the champion of the young men and the darling of the young women, the one who people sang about in folklore was having a hard time. King Saul was trying to kill him. David was so desperate he ran away to the home of his mortal enemy Goliath. In Gath, the people recognized him and fearing for his life, he pretended to be insane. No truer depiction of the shadow of death! This is how he described his experience in his own words:
O God, have mercy on me, for people are hounding me. My foes attack me all day long. I am constantly hounded by those who slander me, and many are boldly attacking me. They are always twisting what I say; they spend their days plotting to harm me. They come together to spy on me—watching my every step, eager to kill me. Psalm 56: 1-2, 5-6 NLT
Your experience may not be that you are running away from a king but this could easily be your state of mind in a toxic workplace where it feels like everyone is out to get you. Or if you have a neighbor or roommate bent on making life a living hell. Or unfortunately, sometimes the conditions in a church or marriage can spark such emotional feelings of walking in the valley of the shadow of death. But listen to what David says in spite of how he feels:
When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise—in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? Psalm 56: 3-4 NIV
Wow! David is in the camp of his enemies…. literally at death’s door and his confession is “I will fear no evil”. He has so much confidence and trust in God’s ability to deliver and save. His trust is the antithesis of any fear he must feel. It gives him the confidence to say:
On this day, one of the darkest days of my life because the valley of death has cast a shadow on my life, I will walk before God in the light of life (Psalm 56: 13 NIV Interpretation mine)
I pray that we truly come to the place where our trust is without borders that even in the face of adversity we remain unwavering. David’s trust was grounded in the next statement the psalmist makes in Psalm 23: 4 “For you are with me”
Stay tuned for the next lesson where we delve into this phrase “for you are with me” a little deeper and be intentional in trusting God even in your darkest valleys: the valleys of the shadow of death!