When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it’s good to know you are not alone. When you feel that no one really gets what you’re going through, its good to know that there is a powerful Protector and Provider who is present with you in the valleys of life.
God has promised to be with his people. I don’t think there is any better place to turn than Psalm 23 for some solid robust theology that can help you through every adversity, each trouble and time of need.
Psalm 23, unfortunately, has been so closely associated with death and dying that it does not get the attention it deserves. More than once, I’ve been told by grieving families to not use Psalm 23 in the funeral because it’s so tied in their minds to sadness. We need a fresh reading of the psalm, in times that we aren’t in distress, to begin appreciating it and using it when we do face the unwanted and the unthinkable in our lives.
One of my bedrock assumptions in ministry is that people need God. They need to discover Him, get to know Him, grow in their understanding of Him, and learn to completely place their trust in Him. I have that presupposition going into ministry because another foundational truth I believe is that God is good – there is never, and I mean never, a time when God is not always good, just, merciful, gracious, and kind. God is pictured in the psalm as a Good Shepherd, the One who lovingly and pastorally leads us. Psalm 23 is a great fortifier of faith, giving you and me the stout knowledge which we need to navigate the valleys, as well as the peaks of our lives.
Take some time and carefully read the psalm several times, preferably in several different translations. You will find characteristics of God which come shining through – attributes which we can internalize for our own connection and help, and externalize to others in their trials of life. Here are four promises based in those attributes to bank-on through any circumstance:
1. God is present with His people.
God wants to be with you. He really likes you. He doesn’t begrudgingly put up with you. God is not fickle. He doesn’t promise to be somewhere with you, then not show up. It does not matter whatsoever what valley you’re walking through – family discord, marriage problems, church strife, work issues, prison-time, or financial ruin – He is there. God goes before you, with you, and after you, every place you go.
2. God’s power is available to His people.
God super-duper wants to empower you through your valley. But we must understand this: God has never promised to overpower a situation and leave you unchanged. Instead, God uses His good and benevolent power to buoy you through your trouble. He’s more interested in developing your character and perseverance. God wants your faith to be strong enough to serve you well throughout your life. Faith can only grow if it is exercised and put under strain.
3. God is in the protection-racket for His people.
God, as the Good Shepherd, uses his shepherd’s rod to make us feel safe and secure in the middle of any hardship. Whereas you and I tend to about the business of seeing God beat up our enemies and give ‘em a decent spanking they won’t forget, God turns the attention to us. Judgment and wrath are God’s business, and He makes it clear it isn’t ours. The wolves out there seeking to take advantage of us will be taken care of by God. We can rest our heads on the pillow at night secure in the knowledge that God never sleeps and stands watch over us all the time.
4. God surrounds His people with abundant provision.
God more than meets our needs – He meets them lavishly. Maybe we can survive on thin porridge and water, but God wants you to thrive, flourish, and be satisfied with a feast. This is all done with people who don’t like us right there to watch. God doesn’t just fill the cup, He causes it to overflow.
Sometimes we dream of having a miracle. Those are great. I’d like to see more of them. But the greatest need we have is of God Himself – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – working to manifest His good presence among us with power, protection, and provision for each day. This is what the church needs to hear, experience, and pass-on.