“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.” Ps 23:4
There are some wonderful images in this psalm which hold a particular meaning. One specific image comes in verse 4. “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.” The Bible tells us that there will be difficult times in life, and Psalm 23 gives a warning. It describes times that come for all of us. Times when we feel like we are walking through a dark, dangerous valley -- a “valley of the shadow of death.” But these beautiful words make it very clear that in such times, God is with us. If we look to Him, He is there to comfort us and sustain us. God is frequently described in the Bible as being like a shepherd who cares for and tends to a flock of sheep. Jesus said of Himself “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me…they know my voice…” Here is the promise of a good shepherd.
My Dad crafts beautiful shepherds’ staffs engraved with the three legs of Mann. The large crook at the end of each staff was used by the shepherd to support the sheep as they crossed narrow bridges or dangerous chasms. It could be used to free them from snares or falls by pulling them up. This is the picture of the Lord protecting, guiding, and supporting us. He doesn’t send us through the dark valley with a cheery promise to meet us again on the other side. He goes with us every step of the way.
The rod was used by a shepherd to defend the sheep from harm and to direct them as they walk. David, who wrote this Psalm, was himself a Shepherd and he had fought off lions and bears to protect the sheep. As he looked across at the giant Goliath, he had already faced giants and the shadows of death; “you know why I can fight Goliath? Because the same God that gave me power over lions and bears will give me power over any Giant…” (1 Samuel 17:37). Goliath was no match for his God, and neither are the giants we face.
In difficult times, we often forget what we ought to remember and remember what we ought to forget. We forget the victories in our lives and in the lives of those around us. Instead, we remember our weaknesses and past defeats. But David says, “I do not fear because of my strength but because of His strength!”
Perhaps the biggest giant in my life so far was when I experienced a nervous breakdown. From a confident business Director, I crumbled into a fearful and paralysed mess. In that moment, I was in the darkest valley and I had to walk through it. The truth is though that God did not leave me to it; He comforted me, sustained me and gently guided me through the shadow. I see now that He was unfolding a plan that changed me for the better and brought me, better equipped and prepared, into fresh fields here on the Isle of Man. Those days were tough, but the Good Shepherd never left me.
Whatever giant or challenge you are facing today, fear no evil, He is with you guiding, comforting and protecting.
• Commit verse 4 to memory and recite verses 1-4.
• Contact someone who is going through a tough time and encourage them with these verses. Pray for them that the Good Shepherd’s rod and staff would be a comfort. If you are in the middle of a storm, ask a friend to pray these verses over you and spend a moment meditating on the truth that He is with you.