I sat in the back of a funeral for a sweet lady who I had only met several times during hospital visits. I observed the room full of people and watched the family in particular. Then it struck me I have lost count of how many funerals I have attended.
The words of Psalm 23 are often referred to in moments like these. I know they have been a salve to my heart in my personal moments of loss. The words of this short Psalm though have become so much more than comforting words for my broken heart. The Psalmist’s refrains are like waves crashing on a shore over and over with such unrelenting forming power.
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One part I often I return to and ponder is the “darkest valley” or “shadow of death.” This phrase is what drives us to these words during funerals, but as fitting as that is I think there is a further truth. In my mind, these words have joined with Jesus’ words in John 9:4 “The night is coming.” In fact the night is now here and each of us could tell tales of the darkness we stumble through each day.
More often our hearts feel more like Psalm 22 “My God, my God why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far away when, I groan for help?” The brokenness of life blinds us with darkness, the hunting ground of our enemy.
How do we move through this darkness? Psalm 23 begin with a either or. In Daniel 3 three young men encounter a blinding darkness: worship the King or die. Truly this is the darkest moment of their lives. “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.” The Psalmist’s wisdom: No matter if I am resting in green fields or stumbling through the darkest valleys I hold onto two promises. God you are with me and you are at work to bring about good for those who love him.
Psalm 23 pushes to hope. No matter if we are in a green meadow or we stand in the darkest valley it is up to us to decide to hope. To lose hope is to lose trust. To hope is to lose control.
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