I wonder what Jesus would say to His followers at a time like this? I am sure it would be something like, “Hey, take a deep breath, trust me, I’ve got this!” It is easy to forget that one of our many blessings is that Jesus walks with us during those dark times! And He is with you right now.
This past year we challenged our congregation to memorize Psalm 23. I was reminded of the reason why this passage is so well loved. It contains truths that remind us of God’s care. The verse that stood out to me yesterday was verse 4, “Even 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.” (Psalm 23:4) David, writing from his experience as a shepherd of his family’s flock, illustrates God’s relationship to us as a Shepherd. Let me share a few thoughts.
Life is filled with those dark valleys. It is during those times of uncertainty that our minds and emotion can run wild with fear. Sheep, like us, can be very timid and easily startled. The dark valleys of our lives can come out of nowhere and when we least expect it. It is during these times that the Lord encourages us to be people of courage and to trust Him. He is really the only one that can truly make a difference. And that leads us to a second insight.
He is with us. It is our awareness of God’s ever presence in our lives that overcomes our fear of evil. Make no doubt about it, we live in a world filled with evil. Disease is a consequence of the fall and it is not the only form of evil that exists. All to often we allow ourselves to focus on evil rather than focusing on God. David reminds us that courage in the midst of difficulty is found not in ourselves but in our relationship with our Creator. It is amazing how our perspective is changed when we spend time in His Word and Pray. We need to remind ourselves that the Lord has overcome evil through his death, burial and resurrection. Paul reminds us ““O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:55–57)
David reminds us that the sheep were not only comforted by the shepherd’s presence in their lives but also by their relationship. He writes, “your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Every sheep would have been touched by the love of the shepherd through the extension of his rod and staff. Maybe they were used for much needed correction, or maybe guidance on the way, of maybe assistance during those difficult times, or even as the means of protecting the His sheep. And for us it is our relationship with Jesus that provides comfort during those dark hours. Those previous times of the Lord correction, direction, held and even protect. It is our relationship the comforts our souls.
Let me leave you with two verses that remind us to trust Jesus. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:10–11)
-Pastor Joe Parkinson