Op Barma – Valley of the Shadow of Death

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”

Psalm 23:3-4

We might think that when the Bible refers to walking through the Valley of the Shadow of Death that it is talking about those incidents in life whereby we are in acute mortal danger; like on patrol in Iraq or Afghanistan for example. And it does, very much so, but it also has a much bigger perspective for us to consider. First read this account, then we will consider these thoughts:

Bruce, former B Flight, 51 Sqn, RAF Regiment, writes:


“One of the luckiest incidents of the tour (Telic 5 January 2005) was on a dawn patrol along a prominent road, in Iraq, carrying out regular route clearance and checking for possible Improvised Explosive Device (IED) threats:

On checking a particular culvert, Harry, one of the Corporals, found something very suspicious, as if something had been freshly dug in across the road. On closer inspection and with carefully searching, Harry found it. Very well positioned, and hidden in the culvert under the road, was a huge IED. Harry liaised with the patrol Team Commanders and briefed them on what he found.

Standard drills were then put into place for situations such as this. B Flight moved to safe distances and dismounted from our vehicles, getting into all round defence in case this was an attempt to draw us into an ambush. I was driving the middle vehicle at the time and my Team Commander was Jim.

We stayed in position and gave cover while the EOD boys arrived and defused the IED. I wasn’t thinking about the chances of what could have happened, but kept my focus on the job in hand. Later, when we were being debriefed, we were to hear the full report on this IED. The size of the device and the amount of explosives used would have completely wiped out the three vehicle patrol I was in if it had managed to detonate. It was also later reported by Intelligence that the device had failed to detonate and that it was almost certainly intended for our patrol, especially as we had been patrolling regularly in that area and on that particular road in the past few days.

When I was on my cot later on that day, with a few hours rest before the next patrol, I had time to think and reflect. I started to question that maybe there is a God who is watching out for me. I also thought that I’m fortunate to still be alive; had that device gone off as intended I would be DEAD. That certainly got me to sit up and think about life and what I was doing with mine…”


To explain the Bibles’ bigger picture on the shadow of death, we have to go back to the beginning:

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth……Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good!”

Genesis 1:1-31

Basically, the world was perfect, there was no such thing as death and there was only one rule to obey:

“You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden— except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.”

Genesis 2:16

We all know what human nature is like, tell us not to ‘push that button’ and guess what…!? Perfect or not as we were back then, we were made to have minds of our own. And so, tricked by the Devil, we disobeyed the only rule there was to break. Consequently Death entered into the world, just like God said it would, and this is where we find ourselves living – in the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

We live under this shadow our whole lives and in some ways it gives life meaning and value as we make the most of the time we have been given. This reality casts a shadow over everything in life, and ultimately we all face at sometime, the pain of grief over the loss of a loved one or a friend. It hurts and confuses us because it was never meant to be that way – we were not made to suffer death. As it is though, we do.

At this point we find ourselves in the midst of the Easter story. The Death and Resurrection of Jesus, the Son of God is the event that paves the way for us to come out from under the shadow of death – if we believe that He died for the forgiveness of our sins.

“The thief [Satan] comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I [Jesus] came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

John 10:10

Although we live in the Valley of the Shadow of Death our whole lives, being on patrol in enemy territory strongly brings home the reality of our mortality to us. With this in mind, perhaps its time to ‘sit up and think‘, as when Bruce said:

“That certainly got me to sit up and think about life and what I was doing with mine.”

Bruce Mcewen, The forgotton soldier

If you want to talk about anything this post might have caused you to think about, please don’t hesitate to hit me up at: spiritualkevlar@gmail.com

Published by Paul

Christian. Writer. Blogger. Husband. Father. Love the Lord. Love the Bible. Love my Wife. Jesus saved me from myself. The Father looks after me every day. The Spirit guides my steps in life. One day I’ll be with Him forever.

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