Simple enough for children to memorize. Timeless enough to be read to mourners for centuries. Repeated enough so that even those who don’t really know God or His people can recognize the passage.
Do you know it? Can you sing it perhaps? Read these beautiful words again with me:
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
One of the most comforting parts of this passage is that all the pronouns are personal: me, my, you, yours.
This God we have is not just a shepherd for the church, not just for the elders or the preachers or the people who sit on the front row.
The Lord is my shepherd. Which means I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
The Lord is close enough to touch me. How do you lead a little child? A blind person? An elderly person? You take them by the hand. And here, we see that the Lord takes us away from the noise, the chaos, the distractions of life. He takes us back to the beginning, the beauty and purity and peace of those things He created.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
Is your soul a little less than perfect? Oh, maybe broken? Damaged? Sinful? Stained?
He can fix that. He takes us back through His pathways, for we cannot be restored except through Him and His teachings. We find the healing and strength we seek when we walk in His ways.
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.
Please note what David does not say. He does not say that God will always take away the valley or the death.
The promise instead lies in that we do not have to walk that road alone. Though it is dark and heavy and hard and evil, God is there, with us, each step of the way. He is the one on which we can lean, for His protection, for His mercy, even for His discipline.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
If we stop to count blessings and compare them with our hardships, we will often be surprised.
No, I’m not being Pollyanna. Yes, I realize and see that life has great and terrible heartache. And yet, isn’t there still beauty? Isn’t there still love? Isn’t there still God’s great providence, even in the midst of our pain?
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
One of the great and beautiful reminders of death is that it reminds us of our forever hope: heaven. We get to dwell with Jesus for eternity.
And yet, that’s not the only thing David tells us: Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.
Joy and hope and goodness are not just found in heaven. Transformation, change, hope, and beauty can still be found, even in the pain of today, this hour.
In the laughter of a child.
In the embrace of a friend.
In the shared tears of a close friendship.
In the lifting up of voices in song.
In the thoughtfulness of a gift.
In the stories told and remembered.
In the falling of gentle rain.
And so much more.
Are you walking through a valley? Are you walking through shadow? Is your heart heavy and burdened?
Hold tight to God’s hand. He will lead you through.