Psalm 23:4 says:
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 is likely the most familiar psalm to just about everyone. Even those who are not believers know this one - it's referenced in many books and movies. I couldn't sleep last night and for some reason the Lord brought this one verse to mind. I wasn't feeling particularly fearful so it felt odd to be meditating on this. And then it hit me.
It feels like someone hit the pause button on this year. 2020 has crawled by because life lurched to a stop in March and then slowly picked up again. We then had a summer of violence and unrest followed by an election that will certainly take up a few paragraphs in history textbooks. Now, as cold weather approaches and COVID-19 numbers rise it feels like we are hitting pause or maybe even rewind? (Please, God, no.)
So let's go back to this verse. "Even though I walk..." Do you see it? It's profound really - it was to me at 2am this morning. We walk through the valley. We move forward through the valley of death or whatever trial we face. The psalmist, David, inspired by God, uses the word "walk" to tell us this doesn't last forever - we are just passing through. This gave me great comfort and I hope it helps you, too, if you are struggling in this season.
If we are walking, what does this mean we are not doing? We are not sitting. Unlike the time of blessing and restoration we are not lying down. We are also not racing and running away from the valley - how many of us feel like if we just race and run around this will be over? No - we walk. Walking is not frantic and it is not pacing. Walking is not crawling or limping along. Walking is not hopping over or skipping by. Walking is also not tripping over or sliding under.
The picture I get is someone walking purposely, with his or her head held high - this person is not slumped over or cowering as they shuffle through and avoid what the valley brings. They walk. Every step is sure-footed and confident because there is the knowledge that God is right there. And what does the verse say about that? "Your rod and staff comfort me."
The comfort doesn't come from outside sources, distractions, or even talking to everyone who will listen about what is going on - it comes from God. His rod and staff are tools used by a shepherd to guide a flock by pushing and prodding and sometimes even pulling a stubborn member of the flock forward or out of a hole or other mess he's gotten himself into. It's God and His tools that bring the comfort - His Word and worship that will guide us. His truth will push us forward if we feel scared or have anxiety. His voice that will prod us to keep going. His correction will redirect us if we have gone the wrong way.
Many people feel that 2020 has been their worst year ever and I'm certain they aren't exaggerating. People have lost so much - some have lost their loved ones, their jobs and livelihoods, others have simply lost their sense of normal and it has really thrown them into a tailspin. 2020 hasn't been my worst year. I could actually say 2019 was exponentially worse - we endured things I wouldn't wish on my worst enemies. And some days, I will admit, I did not walk through that valley. I crawled. Some days I forgot God was with me and felt so alone - oh, He never left and He was pulling me with all His might out of the pit but I was trying to stay there. But guess what? I'm not there now. Eventually, I got up and I walked out of that year with my head held high and my face set with determination.
If I could walk out of the valley of 2019, I know I can get through this one. I know that God was with me and still IS with me. Last night, He reminded me that we are all just passing through this time, all we have to do is walk with Him.