The Valley of the Shadow of Death :: By Nathele Graham

The Grim Reaper is a name that makes a shiver run down the spine. He is sometimes depicted as a skeletal being carrying a scythe. Other times he’s shown as a figure wrapped in a tattered, flowing robe with a cowl covering his head. As you peer into the depths of the cowl, you see only shadows and darkness. Sometimes two red glowing eyes shine from the shadows. He carries a scythe so he can reap the souls from mortal men. The picture of him puts fear into the human heart. King David had a healthier attitude about death. “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” (Psalm 23:4).

As Christians we need not fear the Grim Reaper with his scythe. Death was conquered by Jesus Christ, our Good Shepherd, who has a rod and a staff to comfort and protect us instead of a scythe to destroy us.

The valley of the shadow of death is all around us, and the world encourages our fear. Christians have had much to fear over the centuries. The shadow of death was more than a threat to the first century Christians; it was a reality. Because of their faith they faced crucifixion, being burned alive, and were used as entertainment when put into an arena filled with hungry lions. They faced fear and death every day, but never lost their faith. Because their feet were planted on the firm foundation of Jesus Christ, the Gospel was passed from one generation to the next.

I admire those brave people who loved Jesus and weren’t afraid to stand up for Him. They had nothing to fear from death. When death took them from life in this fallen world ruled by Satan, they stepped into eternity surrounded by the perfect love of God. Christians have that same promise today.

By no stretch of the imagination does this mean we are to hurry death. We have a commandment from Jesus that we are to share the Gospel with the lost, and we cannot do that if we hide in fear or rush death.

Every one of the Apostles faced physical pain and death. Only John died from natural causes, but he did face persecution. The Apostle Paul kept his heart set on Jesus and endured imprisonment, shipwrecks, beatings, stoning, and more. His desire was to be with his Lord, but understood he was given a mission on earth. “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live in the flesh this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you” (Philippians 1:21-24).

Christians still have that same dilemma. We yearn for our Heavenly reward, but it’s needful that we stay in this world and share the Gospel. So, as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we needn’t fear any evil. Jesus is with us.

Persecution didn’t end after the first century. It continues today. In Muslim countries, if you profess to be a Christian, you face beheading or some other means of torture, but that hasn’t stopped Christianity from spreading to those men and women who live daily with the threat of death hanging over them. Christians in China face persecution, but that hasn’t stopped the Christian faith from prospering. For many years the Christians there have had to be very cautious and not open about their faith. They could meet together, but only if their teaching was approved by the government. Pure Christianity had to be hidden, but it did prosper.

Today there’s a new threat that puts fear into our hearts. Like the Black Death of the 1300’s, or the Cholera Plague of the 1800’s, or the Spanish Flu in the 1900’s, we now are facing another plague. This one is called the coronavirus. There’s no doubt that this is a real threat that has the entire world worried. As Christians, we need to keep our faith in God in place and not allow fear to cause us to hide in fear. I am not trying to make light of this disease or trying to say there’s no threat. I’m just trying to calm the panic.

There are precautions we need to take: Wash your hands, use hand sanitizer, cover your nose when you sneeze and mouth when you cough, eat more natural and healthy foods that boost your immune system naturally; vitamin C is an asset any time. What we cannot do is hide in fear.

Christians in China have come out of hiding and are now wearing yellow jackets in order to be seen. They go into the streets and hospitals, helping wherever they can. They hand out tracts and openly witness to people who are very afraid. They offer hope to the many who are filled with fear and who are dying. In contrast, today in the small congregation I attend, everyone was talking about how we shouldn’t shake hands or hug each other. This is the opposite of what God’s word admonishes us to do.

“Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord” (James 5:14). On more than one occasion, Paul urged Christians to “Greet one another with an holy kiss” (2 Corinthians 13:12). In the culture of today, we’re more likely to shake hands. The point is, human touch is important. With the risk of contracting a disease, be sure to wash your hands to protect yourself and others.

The shadow of death falls on all of us. Many people today are living in fear of what’s happening with wars, earthquakes, disease, politics, and more. Jesus said that in the end times these things would get worse. As always, Jesus was right. It’s up to Christians to be the ones who lead in giving hope to the frightened people around us. Times are evil, but if we speak up for Jesus, we can give hope, calm fears, and win souls. “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16).

There are more things that can bring fear than disease. The hearts of men are truly growing colder. The cold-blooded murder of people is growing at a pace equal to the drug cartel’s growth. Gang activity is growing; the political scene is becoming more and more liberal, which means a socialistic agenda that embraces sin and tries to control how we think. Redeem the time while you can. That means take every opportunity to calm fear in the name of the Lord and share with the lost the truth of the Gospel.

The news media seems to thrive on spreading fear. Here’s a fact that seems to be forgotten. Everyone will die one day. Whether you get hit by a car or contract a deadly disease, your life is a vapor “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away” (James 4:14).

Although we are facing a world-wide epidemic that’s truly a cause for concern, sin is the most frightening disease of all. It’s interesting to me that the airwaves are filled with warnings about not touching each other and staying indoors, but politicians and the news media encourage sin which leads to death.

HIV is still an issue, but instead of prevention, the liberal agenda makes sure that the deviant lifestyle of homosexuality is “normalized.” It isn’t normal. It is sinful. Sin infects all people and separates us from God. The only way to overcome sin and the eternal death it brings is to give your life to Christ. The disease you contract while living a sin-filled life won’t go away, but if you sincerely repent of your sin and follow Christ, you will spend eternity with Him. Death will no longer put fear into your heart. All around us is the valley of the shadow of death where people who seem alive are dead in their sin. Christians need to set our fear aside and share the Gospel.

Fear can drive a person to think irrationally. It’s normal to not want to die, and we need to take precautions to live in this world as long as God allows. We need to trust Him to give us peace. “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). 

If we allow fear to stop us from helping people or sharing the Gospel, then we deny the power of God. Jesus called the Holy Spirit the Comforter. He is the third person of the Trinity, and He indwells all Christians. Trust Him to lead you and give you the peace that only comes from God. We will face death one day, but there is no fear in Christ. We don’t want to leave friends and family, but only after death can we truly be alive. Christians have no need to fear because we will no longer be walking in the valley of the shadow of death. We will be living with Jesus and all who have been redeemed by His blood.

When the disciples went to Jesus and asked when the end of the age would happen, He told of signs to look for. War, disease, famine, earthquakes, are on the list of signs. These things have always happened, but as we near the end, they are growing stronger and happening more often. The Rapture will take Christians Home before the most horrible things happen. Before the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse ride and before the judgments of God’s wrath are poured on a world that has rejected God, Christians will hear His call.

“After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter. And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne” (Revelation 4:1-2).

If you fear the coronavirus, then consider what will happen on earth during the Great Tribulation. There will be worse disease, war, and evil than can be imagined. You can read about it in Revelation. Place your faith in Jesus Christ and be saved from the wrath to come.

I’m just like you. I’m looking forward to eternity with Christ, but I don’t feel as if I’m ready to leave this life quite yet. I love my children and grandchildren and would like to be a part of their lives for a long time. There’s much more that I want to do for the Lord and strive to serve Him better. So, as I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, Jesus is with me. He’s with you too, so you have nothing to fear.

God bless you all,

Nathele Graham

Ron and Nathele Graham’s previous commentaries archived at

All original scripture is “theopneustos” – God breathed.

If you’d like to be on my mailing list to receive the commentaries, just drop me an email and let me know.