Psalm 23:4 – Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me; Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Sheep are virtually defenceless. While most animals have some effective means of defence — sharp claws; teeth; speed; ability to hide; keenness of smell, sight, or hearing; great strength; ferocity — sheep are awkward, weak, and ignorant; their spindly legs and tiny hoofs prevent a quick getaway; not even an angry growl supplements their pitiful bleat. The only sure protection for the sheep is the ever-watchful Shepherd, ready to defend and discipline with His rod and staff.
Since the dark valleys are as much a part of our "path of righteousness" as the green pastures, we too need the presence of our loving Shepherd to overcome the worst of our enemies — our fear. Our fears of adversity, our fears of rejection, our fears of death.
A little piece of myself dies with every friend or neighbour I lose to death. Of course the memories remain, but the part of me "brought out" by the other — the silliness over bad puns, the determination to clean out the garage so that I might be able to retrieve tools as easily as our disgustingly organized neighbour, the womanly pleasure of sharing earthy confidences along with gardening advice — diminishes. Fear and loneliness would likely dominate the ageing process without the Shepherd's assurance that I am being purposefully led away from worldly connections toward an impossibly fulfilling life everlasting.
Prayer: Shepherd me, O Lord, beyond my wants, beyond my fears, through this valley shadowed by death into life everlasting with You. Amen.
Editor's note: this series will resume Tuesday, May 20.