In the first part of Christian’s journey in John Bunyan’s (1628–1688) famous book The Pilgrim’s Progress, he had to travel through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. In this valley there was a very narrow path with hellish dangers on both sides. If Christian would veer too much to the left or right, it would be the end of him. The narrator explained it like this – which, by the way, is an outstanding analogy of the Christian life:
“I took notice that now poor Christian was so confounded, that he did not know his own voice. And thus I perceived it: just when he was come over against the mouth of the burning pit, one of the wicked ones got behind him, and stept up softly to him; and whisperingly suggested many grievous blasphemies to him – which he verily thought had proceeded from his own mind. This put Christian more to it than anything that he met with before, even to think that he should now blaspheme him that he loved so much before! Yet could he have helped it, he would not have done it; but he had not the discretion neither to stop his ears, nor to know from whence those blasphemies came.
When Christian had traveled in this disconsolate condition some considerable time, he thought he heard the voice of a man, as going before him, saying, ‘Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me’ (Ps. 23:4).
Then was he glad; and that for these reasons:
First, because he gathered from thence that some who feared God were in this valley as well as himself.
Secondly, for that he perceived God was with them, though in that dark and dismal state; and why not with me, thought he, though, by reason of the impediment that attends this place, I cannot perceive it (Job 9:11)?
Thirdly, for that he hoped (could he overtake them) to have company by and by. So he went on, and called to him that was before; but he knew not what to answer, for that he also thought himself to be alone. And by and by the day broke; then said Christian, ‘He hath turned the shadow of death into the morning’ (Amos 5:8).”
– John Bunyan (1628–1688), The Pilgrim’s Progress, p. 69-70