Dear Friends in Christ…
For centuries the Twenty-third Psalm has been one of the most treasured passages in all of Holy Scripture. It is among the most familiar, so much so that even people who are not religious or very knowledgeable about Scripture recognize these words. Psalm 23 is comforting, it is often quoted in times of trouble or distress, and especially when there has been a death. Many images in this psalm have deep meaning. One image that comes from the verse, Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
It would be so wonderful if God would simply promise us that we would never go through difficult times. But we do go through difficulties all of the time, Some difficulties are terrible and some are just plain irritating, But God constantly warns us of these dangers and complications in the scriptures.
St. Peter wrote in his first letter “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.” The Bible constantly tells us that there will be difficult times in life, and Psalm 23 gives such a warning. It does not say, “God will keep you from danger, “ but rather it describes that there will come times, and they come for all of us, when we feel like we are walking through a dark, dangerous valley — a “valley of the shadow of death.“
But what the Word of God does make very clear is that as we move through such times, God is with us. God is there to comfort us and support us. “As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for YOUR rod and YOUR staff comfort me.
God is frequently described in the Bible as being like a shepherd who cares for and tends a flock of sheep. The rod is used by a shepherd to ward off evil and to direct the sheep as they walk. The staff with its large crook at the end serves to support the sheep’s body when it crosses a dangerous ravine.
The Lord protects, guides, and supports us. God does not send us through the dark valley with a cheery promise to meet us again on the other side. God goes with us every step of the way.