Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Something about these familiar words from the 23rd Psalm struck me recently. Like millions of other children, I memorized this Psalm as a young child, and it has remained imprinted in my memory. (Like the Lord’s Prayer, I learned it in the KJV, and that is how I always recall it.) I have always associated this particular passage with protection. In other words, it meant something like, “Even though I’m in a very dangerous place, I’m safe, because God is protecting me.”
But lately I’ve come to see that famous passage entirely differently. I don’t think the Psalmist is saying that even though he is walking through the “valley of the shadow of death,” thanks to God there will be no evil. Rather, I think he is saying that because God is with him, he will not fear the evil.
We live in a world corrupt with evil. Some of us are fortunate enough to be largely separated from evil, while others spend their entire lives subjected to evil that would be unimaginable to the rest of us. But no matter how insulated from evil we may seem to be, to recast a well-known saying, “Evil Happens” and we all have to deal with it.
So I don’t think God promises to always keep us safe from the consequences of evil. Instead, I think he promises that when we find ourselves confronted with evil, as when it seems like we are walking through the valley of the shadow of death, no matter what else happens, he will walk with us and he will comfort us. And therefore, we don’t have to fear evil.