Walking Through Life's Valleys

Bible Book: Psalms  23
Subject: Hardships; Trials; Valleys of Life; Tears; Troubles

Psalm 23

In the 23rd Psalm, David is not referring to the experience of death, but to an experience of life. He is drawing inferences from a very real place, a place on the route between Bethlehem and Jericho. There is a valley there, with steep cavernous mountains on either side. In Biblical days, many people traveled through that valley, from Bethlehem to Jericho and back. The caves in the sides of the mountains would serve the shepherds, for they would bed down their sheep in the caves so they could rest with protection from cold weather. It was those same caves that would often find themselves occupied by robbers and thieves waiting for someone to pass by.

In Luke 10:30 Jesus tells us of the story of a traveler who was going from Jerusalem to Jericho “and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.” So there was not only the threat of wild animals and wolves, but of thieves.

Now David had remembered how both a lion and a bear attacked sheep that he was shepherding (I Samuel 17:34). It may have been at this very spot. It was the most feasible route, but an extremely dangerous spot.

David refers to this valley in Psalm 23 as “the valley of the shadow of death”.

We need to examine this verse closely because its meaning is hidden yet very revealing.

Even though we have used this Psalm with a great degree of religiosity and comfort during funerals, the verse really has very little to do with death itself. In fact, the Hebrew words used to describe the valley are perhaps better translated “dark shadows”. Even though David may have included death in his thoughts, it includes much more.

In Biblical days, the valley was a dark and ominous area, perhaps even a place of evil spirits. It became a symbol of the circumstances in life that give rise to fear.

When David says, “..I will fear no evil..,” the Greek word used for “death” was the same one used for “evil”. David is saying, “Even though I experience places which generate fear..” Let me pause here to say that “fear” is the most motivating and damaging of all emotions experienced by humans.

Within that valley were pitfalls, precipices, beasts, robbers, and all kinds of evil. What a vivid comparison to life. They are awaiting to steal away those things which would bring happiness.

I. The Pitfall of diminished Joy (gladness of heart)

A. Peanuts Illustration

There was a peanuts cartoon years ago in which Lucy asks Charlie Brown if he has ever known anybody who was really happy. Before she can finish her sentence, Snoopy comes dancing on tip-toe into the frame, his nose high in the air. He dances and bounces his way across two frames of the cartoon strip. Finally, in the last frame, Lucy finishes her sentence: “Have you ever known anybody who was really happy and was still in their right mind?”

B. There are many events that bring joy into our lives:


Birth of a Child

Promotion at work

C. The Bible talks about events that bring joy:

1. The Birth of Christ

In Luke 2:10 we read, “Do not be afraid, for behold I bring you tidings of great joy which will be to all people.”

2. The Resurrection

Matthew 28: 7-8 states, “And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.” So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word”.

3. The Sinner’s Repentance

In Luke 15 Jesus shares the story of the man who has 100 sheep and loses one. The shepherd leaves the 99 and goes in search of the one. We need to remember the value of just one soul. In verse 5, Luke records, “And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing”. There is joy over the ONE which is found.

Bill Gaither wrote about that marvelous joy in the song “There is Joy in the Camp”.

For years I traveled down a
Long and lonely road,
Sorrow and pain my lot to bear,
But then I met the Christ
Who took my heavy load,
And since then I hear singing in the air.

There's joy in the camp,
A sinner has come home,
There's joy in the camp,
Rejoicing 'round the throne,
Singing and shouting
The great redemption song;
Out of the darkness into the light,
Out of my blindness to jubilant sight,
Out of my sorrow to heaven so bright,
There's joy, wondrous joy in the camp!

4. Spiritual Evidence of the Touch of Jesus

One of the most engaging of all Jesus’ many attractive qualities was his sympathy for suffering people. Most of us feel bad when we hear about someone who is experiencing pain, loss, or trouble. Some of us might even try to do something to help. But very few of us are willing to get directly involved in a messy situation of need. Thank God this is not the case with Jesus. In Matthew 8:1-3 we read, “When He had come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him. And behold, a leper came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”

 Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed.

There is nothing so thrilling as experiencing the touch of the Master’s hand.

5. Names written in heaven

The scripture trumpets this truth in Luke 10:20. “Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”

D. Have you ever noticed how “joy” seems to be so transitory

1. Tears filling eyes of many.

2. Sorrow griping hearts.

3. Pain tearing through minds like a ravenous wolf.

4. Loss subtracting from our lives.

E. Valleys will come

As we travel the journey of life, there will be times that we will walk through the valley and stumble into the pitfall of diminished Joy. The Bible says our Joy is to be everlasting, abundant, unspeakable. My friends, if you are walking through the valley of deep shadows this morning and you have stumbled into the pitfall of diminished joy, understand that Jesus can restore your joy!

1. Jesus is bigger than any rut you fall into.

2. Jesus is bigger than any pitfall or pit the devil can put before you.

3. Jesus can pick you up as he did Peter who was sinking in the water.

4. Jesus will join you in the fiery furnace of your difficulty.

Another Gaither classic admonishes us “Hold on my child, Joy comes in the morning”

II. The Precipice of lost dreams.

A. Satan not only wants to steal away your joy, but he wants to rob you of your dreams.

Some people find life an empty dream because they put nothing in to it, other lose their dreams because the devil robs them. Perhaps you are here today and satan has robbed you of your dreams. I’ve watched people whose dreams have been dashed against the rocks of some precipice in the valley of dark shadows.

B. Diminished Dreams

I can share of counseling episodes of children that parents so desperately wanted, but who never breathed the breath of life. Have you ever cried until there are just no more tears? I can share the story of a young mother who came to me weeping bitter tears after she had left an abortion clinic. I will never forget those words…”Oh Pastor, how can God ever forgive me?” Those tears did not end in a week or two, but this same mother wept for years over her choice. There are a plethora of stories of parents who watched as their dreams for their children diminished as their little Tommy or Debbie was torn by physical sickness, mental instability, and death. It was many years ago that I prayed with a teenager I will call Steve at the close of a Saturday night revival service. He came to the alter to give his live to Christ. Being the evangelist, I often never heard about the promise or the demise of an individual after their time of seeking Christ. It was years later that I heard that Steve, as a late teenager had died from a drug overdose. The dreams of his parents were crushed.


If time permitted, I could tell you countless stories of folks who dreamed of being great servants for the Lord, but they slipped into a precipice on the road of life.

I don’t know what precipice you may have slipped into. I don’t know what rut you may be in. I don’t know what the devil has stolen from you. But I do know that there are wonderful promises in God’s word for you. I do know that Jesus loves you. I do know that regardless of the dreams that you have lost, you can once again sing,

He brought me out of the miry clay,
He set my feet on the Rock to stay;
He puts a song in my soul today,
A song of praise, hallelujah!

Dear friends, you can make it through those dark valley’s if you have Jesus at your side.