Reading: Psalm 23: 4-6
Verse 4: I will fear no evil, for you are with me.
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death” is a very familiar line in a very familiar Psalm. This line contains several truths for all of us. First, we will all, at points in our lives, walk through a time of loss. The death may be of a friend or loved one, it may be of a marriage or a friendship, it may be of a job. In the times of loss, we all feel a shadow hanging over us. The grief, the pain, the unwanted change all feels like a shadow or dark cloud hanging over us.
Second, we do not walk alone as we pass through the valley. Our God walks with us. Because of His great love for us, God does not let us walk alone. His presence and the people He leads into our lives during these valley experiences are what makes it possible to “walk through”. Yes, we do spend time in the valley and, yes, we will return there from time to time, but we do not remain in the valley. God fosters new life to spring up or to form in us as we walk through the valley and continue on our journey of faith. This is the third truth. God leads us up and out of the valley, back into new life. When we look back, we can see how God was with us in our deepest need and how God led us through the valley. Because of these reminders of God’s love and because of the experience with His closeness, we can join the psalmist in declaring, “I will fear no evil, for you are with me”.
The Psalm ends where it began – with God’s blessings and joy in our lives. God prepares a table for us, God anoints us with the oil of His blessing, and through this our cup overflows. Outside of the valleys we also live daily with the sense of God’s goodness and love surrounding us each moment of each day. It is the same sense of comfort and presence, but it is experienced in the joy of life as well. The Psalm ends with the hope we all profess: “… and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever”. May it be so. May it be so!