For many years the Twenty-third Psalm has been one of the most loved and treasured passages in the Bible. It is among the most familiar even among those who are not “religious” nor very knowledgeable about Scripture. They recognize these words.
When I have had opportunities to visit with families after a loved one has passed away, the scripture passage most often selected to be read is the Twenty-third Psalm. It is one of the most comforting during troubling and stressful times.
There are several images in the psalm that are applicable to Christians today and not just to the lad David shepherding his father’s sheep.
One image comes from the verse, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death... You are with me.” Wouldn’t it be great if we never had difficult times. But, we do. We have times of grief, stress, depression, needing direction, spiritual emptiness, and on I could go. It’s at times like these that you may feel like you are walking through a dark dangerous valley alone.
In his book, The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren in the chapter, “When God Seems Distant,” states, “It is easy to worship God when things are going great in your life – when He has provided food, friends, family, health, and happy situations. But, circumstances are not always pleasant . . . What do you do when God seems a million miles away?” Rick Warren suggests, “In spite of the pain, thanking Him during a trial, trusting Him when tempted, surrendering while suffering, and loving Him when He seems distant.” Someone has described these times of feeling distant from God as, “The dark night of the soul.” The times that will stretch your faith most will be those times when life “falls apart” and it seems like God is nowhere to be found. “When life is rosy, we may slide by with knowing about Jesus, with imitating Him and quoting Him and speaking of Him. But only in suffering will we know Jesus.” (Joni Eareckson Tada)
“As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will not fear evil, for His rod and staff comfort me.” The rod and staff were used to ward off enemies and direct the sheep as they walked. God’s Word, the Bible, does that for us today.
Here are some “Rod and Staff” verses for difficult times:
When there is grief, there is comfort. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18
When we come to God He says, “I will turn their mourninginto gladness, I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.” Jeremiah 31:13
When there is stress, there are instructions. “Don’t worry about anything. Pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank Him for what He has done.” Philippians 4:6
“Give all your worries and cares to God for He cares about you.” I Peter 5:7
When there is depression, there is encouragement. “You know, O Lord, the hopes of the helpless; You encourage them, and you listen to their cry.” Psalm 10:17
When a new life’s direction is needed, there is (GPS) God’s Purpose Shown (revealed). “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not rely on your own understanding. In everything you do acknowledge Him and He will guide your life.” Proverbs 3:5, 6 God desires to show you what He wants you to do in every situation. “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105 He want to give you spiritual understandingabout how to live.
When you feel spiritually empty, He will provide spiritual nourishment. “Like a new born baby, reach for the pure spiritual food of God’s Word so that you may grow as a believer in Christ Jesus.” I Peter 2:2
Your life can be turned around and completely transformed by His Word in difficult times. God has a purpose with every problem.