The Valley of the Shadow of Death

by | Jun 6, 1998 | Priorities

Many years ago in the United States the leader of the Democrats offered the mayor of New York the Democratic nomination for Governor of New York State. He had served his year as mayor, and had gained the approval of all political factions. His public popularity was at its height because of an unsuccessful attempt on his life by a crazy gunman.

The mayor declined the nomination. A friend wrote to him urging him to reconsider, and asked him whether he had overlooked the possibilities of the situation. “You are certain to be elected governor by an overwhelming majority,” the letter said. “Then you will be the logical Democratic candidate for President at the next national convention. Do you realise what you are refusing – the position of the next President of the United States of America?”

The mayor answered his friend: “After a man has gone down into the valley of the shadow of death as I have and there faced great realities, everything else seems mighty small.”

Like the mayor in that true story, we too need to see how small and insignificant most things are for which we labour all our lives – perhaps it would be necessary for us to go down into the valley of the shadow. Pleasure, money, position, what ARE these things for which we strain our nerves and sap our strength and corrupt our souls? They look important and desirable as we strive to get them. In reality, they are so insignificant. It would be pleasant to have them all of course, but no one NEEDS any of them. And of course there are many people in this world – corporate giants, entrepreneurs, developers – who have these things – power, money, position. Many have fallen because of their greed, and one must wonder how many others are really happy and contented.

Like them, some day we shall look back unconcerned as to whether we had any of these things or not. In themselves they are not bad – although sometimes the getting of them is not honourable – but they are such trivial and transitional things. Meanwhile the really great things are before us; things the value of which will appear great and become more important to us with the passing of time – honesty, satisfaction, usefulness, reliability and God. These are necessary in the lives of everyone. If we gain them, what we lack doesn’t matter.

Ron Clarke


The Valley of the Shadow of Death