“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.” (Psalm 23, 4)
The Death Valley National Park is one of the most popular travel destinations in California/USA. A valley with extreme temperatures. Up to 57° Celsius were measured. A hostile environment!
Whoever wants to pass through this "Valley of Death", is better going to use the car. However, don´t forget to fill up the tank! And plan at least for one gallon of water per person per day. Both headgear and sun spray are musts as well!
David is on his way through the “valley of the shadow of death”. Not as a tourist, but as a wanderer through life. Whoever decides to hike should be prepared to face quite a long way to go. In those days, hiking was not a leisure activity, but often the only way to reach your destination. This also applies to David, who wants to reach his goal in life: the eternal community together with God, visually described with a richly laid table in the house of God. That is his goal!
David passes through the shadow of death with courageous steps. The shadows of death can be frightening, but he knows that the good shepherd is with him. He is not alone. He sees the shepherd's crook besides. This gives him comfort. The good shepherd accompanies him on his way towards his finish line.
Some people are forced to pass through such a “valley of death's shadow” on their way through life. Suddenly a serious illness overshadows everything in daily life. A serious crisis may overtake the "wanderer" and cause darkness. Even bad people can make life a torture. David was well aware of this! He cries out in Psalm 69 (verses 1+2+5): “Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the muddy depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me. Those who hate me without reason outnumber the hairs on my head.”
Physical and mental illness, loneliness, dementia can become deep shadows and cause darkness over every aspect in your daily life. Mental crisis and evil people can rob you of your courage to face demands in life. What then is left in these circumstances to protect against hopelessness and resignation? What comforts? Only the knowledge of the good shepherd is what is left for David. He knows that the Good Shepherd is at his side. He knows this because he sees the rod and staff besides him.
In narrow and dark phases of life, it may become so dark that men are no longer able to see the good shepherd the Lord Jesus Christ. Only the shepherd´s staff may be visible. In these circumstances the shepherd's crook makes him to recognize: I am not alone! Jesus is with me! Jesus remains with me!
How can the shepherd's crook look like in times of crisis, fear and loneliness? The shepherd's crook that did accompany me in such phases of life in the morning before going into the day was the Lord's Prayer, the confession of faith and Martin Luther´s morning blessing. The staff that accompanied me in the evening to rest and into the night, was the Lord's Prayer, the confession of faith and Martin Luther´s evening blessing. That was all I had.
Sometimes it may just not be possible to pray more. And sometimes we just think that deeper faith may not work. However, in my own experience, I was assured: God comforts! He is on our side and guides us through towards his finish line.
God bless you.