Psalm 23 is a resource for comfort and reassurance, particularly when we go through difficult times. Human beings can be vulnerable, and Covid-19 has made us even more vulnerable. In her reflection on Psalm 23: 4, Kaholi writes, “Many of us are frightened of death but we can take our refuge in the Lord. We can trust our God who, like a shepherd, is able to guide us through life’s challenges”.
Early this year, my dad left for his eternal abode and this personal loss left me empty, lonely and vulnerable. Two months later, Covid-19 and its accompanying anxiety, uncertainty and despair altered our lives in unimaginable ways.
The lock down has been a time of reflection. The last six months has enabled me to relook at the priorities in life. I was able to deal with the clutter that took away my peace of mind. I believe this has been the experience for many of you.
As our family went through bereavement, the passage Psalm 23:4, was read to us time and time again by our pastors, family and Christian friends who came over to pray with us.
Psalm 23 is certainly one of the best-known passages in the whole Bible. It is a resource for comfort and reassurance, particularly when we go through difficult times. Psalm 23: 4 is a familiar scripture and yet, the verse had fresh meaning to us as we were in deep remorse over my father’s death.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley (Ps. 23:4) is not a reference to spiritual darkness or the terror we feel when we’re heading to the grave. Rather, it points to how we should respond to dark times in our lives. “Dark times” could be anything – Financial, medical, sickness, relational… or whatever that is causing us to despair.
True, we go through dark valleys in our lives but thankfully, we can trust our God who is always with us. The next line reads, “I will fear no evil for You are with me.”
We can go through dark, tough times and even endure death — of ourselves or someone we love, but we have the assurance that God is with us. I believe this assurance of God’s presence comes only when we are deeply connected with God spiritually, not through rituals and ceremonies.
Christ – the indwelling Presence of God – is our spiritual identity. The Christ in me is infinitely powerful, but he is a silent power. He does not shout to get our attention like the negative thoughts inside of us.
And therefore, it is important to remind ourselves that the presence and the power of God lies within us. He takes us through the shadows of death and evil that seem so real and leads us to the stillness of the mind far from the maddening crowd. He takes us to the green pastures and still waters of peace, joy and abundance.
Psalm 23:4 continues with the imagery of the Shepherd—Our Lord Jesus Christ— who is available to guide us through life’s challenges. The rod and staff are traditional shepherds’ tools—the staff offering support when the journey gets difficult and the rod to repel any dangers that may seem to threaten us.
Many of us may not understand the life of the shepherd in the ancient Near Eastern setting and yet, most of us are able to grasp the message of comfort and assurance conveyed in the Psalm.
When we go through times of distress, such as the death of a loved one, we instinctively turn to the assuring words, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” The imagery of the Shepherd conveys comfort and calm to those who are a part of God’s flock through faith in Jesus Christ.
David sinned and suffered the painful consequences (cf. 2 Sam. 11–12; 1 Chron. 21). David was truly a “man of sorrows.” Nowhere did God promise David (or any other saint) freedom from the suffering and trials of life.
Even though God is our shepherd we will still go through trying times, but we will never “be in want” of the heavenly comfort which comes from God’s presence and God’s power.
Human beings can be vulnerable, and Covid-19 has made us even more. The last few months have been anything but dark, gloomy and sad. We feel lonely, empty and helpless. Many of us are frightened of death but we can take our refuge in the Lord.
We can trust our God who is always with us. Christ— our Shepherd is available to guide us through life’s challenges. He leads us to the green pastures and still waters of peace, joy and abundance. We can confidently say:
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing (Psalm 23:1).
The lock down has helped us realize we don’t need most “things’ – than one house, many cars or huge bank balance, power or titles. It really does not matter. The new normal is to learn to survive with what little we have. What we need is to be connected with God so that we can find ourselves, regain our humanity, enjoy physical and spiritual well-being.
Pope Francis during his homily in front of a rainy St. Peter’s Basilica said, “We have realized that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us are called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other. The storm exposes our vulnerability and uncovers those false and superfluous certainties around which we have constructed our daily schedules, our projects, our habits and priorities.”
Can we, then, not make this perfect storm change our lives? Can we not use this opportunity to give back to the society rather than accumulating more? Let us not be greedy, for if we die today, we take nothing with us. Let us learn to live simple and most importantly learn to share… and make this world a better place to live in – it is our responsibility.
We human beings have allowed non-essential things to control us and have almost forgotten that we are made in the image of God. Probably, today is the best opportunity to focus on what matters most as people of God and now is the time to choose that which is reckoned to be our Christian calling and responsibility. Amen!
Dr. Kaholi Zhimomi Sumi from Nagaland. She is the Associate Professor in the Department of History of Christianity at the United Theological College, Bangalore
Photo by Torsten Dederichs on Unsplash