One of the best loved Psalms in the Bible is the 23rd. As a pastor, I read that passage at many services and prayed through it with many people. It covers all phases of life, from good times to difficult challenges, and even death. For our soul to reach inner peace under any circumstance, we must come to terms with its message.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.
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. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23)
So here’s the real question: When God guides us down a path we did not choose on our own, will we still trust Him? Green pastures… still waters… restored soul… goodness and mercy… Sure. Those are the happiest times in life. But what about the next part? The valley of the shadow of death. Not so easy.
For me, God has always been gracious and good. I can recount so many times when He has been my comfort and relief. He has been my answer to prayer. He has healed and restored me physically, emotionally, and financially. But now, as a cancer patient, I daily face the reality that God may be done with my purpose here on earth at any time. It’s been a challenge to find peace and acceptance in the possibility that His path might take me through the valley of the shadow of death. Maybe you’re there too, or someone you love. The psalmist looked at what we face and concluded, “I will fear no evil.” Simply experiencing God’s presence was all the comfort he needed.
I’ve found that when coming from a place of fear, I usually make poor, reactionary decisions I later regret. How much better would it be to start from a place of contentment, regardless of the outcome? What if we knew that whether we face good or evil, life or death, God would be there as our companion? Wouldn’t that free us up to spend more energy on making good decisions and give us a greater sense of joy? That’s been my goal… to be at peace, regardless of the path. And if that path happens to lead through shadowy valleys, it’s okay. In the valley and beyond, we’ll be with God and His mercies. Forever. As John the apostle put it in 1Jn 4:18, “There is no fear in (God’s) love; but perfect love casts out fear…”
Hearing His voice and finding His path end up being the only real challenges. More on that another time!
– Sanford Kravette