Psalm 23:4 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 read pretty regularly at funerals. Typically, it has to do with this specific verse. The unfortunate implication is that we turn to this idea of God being with us only when we are in the “valley of the shadow of death.” This is a true statement, but the text doesn’t say “when” I walk, it says “even though” I walk.
This is important to me. The fact of the matter is, I am in the valley of the shadow of death. Every year, month, week, and day of my life is spent mere seconds from death. It’s like a monstrous, cold cliffside blocking out the warming embrace of the sun’s rays. I am in that valley now, and I always am.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going emo on you. It’s not like my life is a walking tragedy, and everywhere I turn my happiness is stolen like luggage in an Eastern European customs office. On the contrary, as the previous verses have shown, He leads me to green pastures, quiet streams, places of restoration and righteousness. He does this in spite of the fact that death, the ultimate epilogue to the destructiveness of sin, looms about every second of every day.
The glory of this passage and this verse isn’t that Jesus only protects me when I’m close to death, but that He protects me every moment, and He always has. The very fact that I’m alive to write these words is evidence that with His staff He’s pulling me from the clutches of darkness and with His rod, He’s beating back the demons that call for my soul.
He uses his staff to rescue His sheep, and His rod to defend as well as discipline His sheep. Even with this knowledge, I tend to despise His discipline because it causes pain. If only I could see for myself, really see with spiritual eyes, the certain destruction that I am heading towards like a dumb sheep sprinting to a cliff. Then I would stop degrading His discipline and His salvation.
When I really stop to think about it, He is the one who not only keeps me alive, not only does He stay with me and comfort me, but He is the One who gave me life. I am only alive because He wanted me. I only breathe these few breaths on Earth because He has a plan for me. So, when I look at this valley in the shadow of death that I walk in, I can say:
“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. “ (2 Cor. 4:17-18)
Today, I will thank God for giving me life, saving my soul, and preparing Eternity for me.