In a few minutes I’ll be heading to California.  Once there I’m hooking up with Rob and we plan to solve all the world’s problems in the next week and also do some photography.  One of the locations where we will be photographing is Death Valley National Park.  I have been there a couple of times before so I’m really looking forward to it.  However, when I’ve told people recently where I’m going they all seem to indicate they have no desire to go there.  Apparently it doesn’t sound like a very inviting place.  But it is!  Perhaps the name itself bothers people but I can assure you that Death Valley is full of life and beauty.

There are lots of references to valleys in the Bible.  No doubt the one that comes to people’s minds first is “the valley of the shadow of death.”  This valley, of course, is mentioned in Psalm 23.  Many people over the years have found comfort in this particular psalm.  At times of death a lot of people turn to it.  They like hearing that “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” (v. 4)  I must admit it is, indeed, comforting to know that God is with us in our times of grief and when we die.  Many biblical scholars have noted, however, that the way this verse has been translated may be misleading.  A better translation may be “the darkest valley” instead of “the valley of the shadow of death.”

If we take this alternative translation it expands the meaning.  The Psalmist’s assurance now goes beyond just times of death and dying to any period in our life when we are struggling, any period which we might characterize by “darkness.”  This is, certainly, the truth.  The Bible offers us numerous assurances that God is with us wherever we go and whatever our circumstances.  Jesus promised his disciples before leaving this world that he would be with them always, to the very end of the age. (Matthew 28:20)

I look forward to being in Death Valley in a few days.  While there, I plan to offer thanks for God’s constant presence in my life.  Wherever you happen to be, I hope you will do the same.


(I took the pictures above on previous trips to Death Valley National Park.)