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Friday, March 15, 2013
Today’s Reading | Psalm 23
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long. (NRSV)
If there’s any scripture that I would keep close at hand—in my survival kit—it’s this Psalm 23. Until I explored it more deeply through the process of writing this devotion, it scared me a little bit, with that dark part about walking through the valley of the shadow of death. Yet in search of the meaning for me, I discovered it to be a powerful statement of faith. Perhaps the essence of what it means to believe.
So often, our faith is challenged, or so we perceive it this way. When things don’t go our way, we question God’s commitment to us. Why? Why me? Why is it this way? Will it ever change? Are things just going to get worse? It’s easy to get lost, to lose our way. And at times we lose our faith altogether.
What brings us back? What restores our souls?
The joy of this psalm is the enduring presence of the Shepherd—in life and in death. I’ve always believed that it is impossible for humans to exist alone, that we need a presence to be human, complete. It’s the essence of being human. As we stray from our faith, cast in shadows of doubt and fear—sometimes to the depths of that dark valley—it is the need for that presence. To want. To find the path back to verdant pastures beside still waters. He is always there with rod and staff—the protector, the redeemer, the good shepherd, bringing clarity to our suffering. Restored. Renewed. Prepared for anything. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Lord, my shepherd, thank you for being ever present, for leading me back when I stray, for walking beside me through dark valleys, for protecting me, for providing for me in abundance that I sometimes fail to see, for preparing a place for me in your house. In the name of the good shepherd, who gave his life for the sheep. Amen.
Written by Christopher Gentry, member of Fourth Presbyterian Church
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