“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.” (Psalms 23:4 NIV)
Have you ever taken the time to truly meditate upon these words? We’re all pretty familiar with “dark valleys” of life. They come around pretty often, and they usually have pretty scary labels, such as “job loss”, “death”, “critical illness”, “divorce”, etc. And these “dark valleys” of life are pretty scary. Yet David says, “I will fear no evil…”
How is it that we will not be afraid in such situations?
David goes on to tell us how: “for you are with me…”
That’s it! As long as we remember that God is with us, we will have no need to be afraid!
The problem is, in the midst of those “dark valleys”, it is pretty easy to forget that God is there. It’s pretty easy to forget everything, actually!
In 2012, my wife faced cancer. On the day of her surgery, she was taken down for some special tests, ones that would be very painful, and I wasn’t allowed to go with her. The whole cancer experience was definitely a “dark valley”, but she was facing the darkest of the dark times that day. She was very brave, but as I watched her go down for the tests, I knew she was afraid. I was relieved when she was allowed to join me once again, and I was all prepared to comfort her. Her face, however, was radiant. The fear was completely gone. My wife would later tell me that as she sat waiting for her test, God placed Psalms 23 on her heart. She spent the next 15 minutes meditating on each line, and as she did, she felt God’s presence with her, and that was all it took!
David goes on to explain how God will comfort us: “…your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
If we think back to the purpose of a rod and a staff to a shepherd, we see that the shepherd used these instruments for many different things. First of all, he would use his staff to rest upon if he didn’t find a suitable place to sit. He also used his staff to guide the sheep, to help them stay on the intended path. The rod, on the other hand, was actually the curled end to the staff. It was used to pull sheep out of dangers such as deep water or thick brush. It was also used to defend the sheep against predators. Thus, God’s “staff” is a place where we can rest in Him. It represents His guidance, while His “rod” keeps us from danger. Sometimes, when in those “dark valleys”, we may not even recognize the dangers we are in. Nonetheless, we can trust the “rod” and the “staff” of our Heavenly Father to protect us, guide us, provide us with rest and rescue us from trouble.
No wonder the psalmist says the “rod” and the “staff” are comforting!
What “dark valley” are you facing right now? Take time to meditate upon Psalms 23:4. Feel God’s presence, sense His protection, His guidance, His rest, and then receive His comfort!
Remember, God loves us, our Heavenly Father guides us and rescues us. No one could be closer to us than He is, and when we don’t sense His presence, it is usually because we’ve been blinded to it by our own emotions!
In His love,
(To access the entire “The Sling for God” devotional series, please click here.)