Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I fear no evil;
for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.
Death Valley, California has the hottest ever recorded temperature on earth at 134 degrees F. on July 10, 1913. I can’t even imagine walking through a valley that hot. The Valley floor surface is 282 ft. below sea level and is mostly flat; it’s walls are surrounded by high cliffs and mountains which can range to over 11,000 ft. above sea level. Scientists say the shape, size and depth of the Valley cause its temperatures and air circulation patterns to function kind of like a convection oven. Pretty much nothing lives for long in Death Valley.
Psalm 23 tells us in this life we walk through the valley of the shadow of death. While the Psalmist didn’t mean Death Valley, California it does offer us an image in which we can relate. Life can be very hard. We can feel scorched by life’s hardships, kind of like we’ve been baked in an oven and burnt to a crisp. In fact, life can be so hard that we end up despairing even of life itself. But, that’s only if we walk through the valley alone.
I have great news for you. No one must walk through the valley alone! God is with us. He always has been, and He always will be. The Psalmist reminds us that He’s always beside us and uses His staff and rod to comfort us. His staff and rod may seem harsh at times but He only uses it for our good. Like a shepherd who pulls a sheep back from the edge of a cliff with the crook of his staff.
Fridays during Lent, we especially call to mind Jesus’ way of the cross as He was led to Calvary. That was certainly a Death Valley. But even as Jesus carried His cross through that valley of death, the Father was with Him. At just the right time, when He couldn’t take another step, God brought Simon the Cyrene along to help carry the burden of cross, and He will help you with yours too.
Our Lenten journey has just begun, but today we’re mindful that our journey can be filled with crosses, and deathly hard experiences. As we fast and pray today, let’s hear the words of the Psalmist and remember…
Thou preparest a table before me, in the presence of my enemies;
thou anointest my head with oil, my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
My daily Lenten prayer – “Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and sustain in me a willing spirit. ” NRSV