Sometimes, a path of righteousness leads directly into the shadow of death. This is a shock to most of us, but our childhood Psalm outlines this very outcome clearly. “He guides me in the paths of righteousness…I walk through the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:3-4).
Without any blatant “wrong-doing” on our part, without a misstep, we will be shadowed by darkness, fear, and anxiety. Rather than be startled, let’s expect such life shadows and prepare our response.
In 1822, during his travels in the Middle East, James Morier described an inhospitable tract of land called Malek-el-Moat derah in Persian. Translated as the “valley of the angel of death,” this location held deep ravines with no water and much danger. When we look today for pictures of the terrain, it resembles the Grand Canyon walls pulled together by some tremendous force. It’s no wonder these narrow, rocky passageways cause fear and vulnerability even today.
We also have ravines in our lives that we find challenging to navigate. Situations of divorce, politics, and illness loom more extensive than our strength to endure. If we focus on the instability around us, fear can immobilize us. We cringe to the criticism of others while allowing our self-critic to wound us deeply within.
Despite the dangers of these shadows, we do have hope. As believers, we have an unseen Guide Who knows this terrain well. We have a privately commissioned Shepherd Who is continually holding our hand (Psalm 23:1,4: 37:24). As we seek the Light of His Presence within the darkness, our eyes will dilate to receive the truth.
Here I am, cowering in the shadows of this impassible ravine. Fear and uncertainty have immobilized me, but I realize that staying in this darkness will invite more trouble.
You say that You will never leave me or forsake me (Hebrews 13:5), but I’m having a hard time seeing You. My eyes are blurred with tears and smudged with the grime of my situation. Cleanse my face so I can see You clearly and know Your power experientially.
Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I (Psalm 61:2). I’ve been there before, standing on the firm ground of Your faithfulness (Psalm 61:3). Take my hand and lead me there again, Precious Guide.
As we pick our way through this valley of shadows, hold me tightly. When I stumble, don’t let me fall (Psalm 37:24).
Grant me the strength and endurance necessary to make this journey with You. You emphasize that challenges always achieve Your best work within me. I confess I don’t often like challenges, so be patient with me when I resist. Remind me that these rocky experiences are an answer to my prayers. Light is much brighter when my eyes have known darkness. Selah.