PSALM 23:4: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” ESV
OBSERVATION: How do we face the death of a loved one? Over the years I have walked through the valley of the shadow of death personally with the loss of my parents and two of my closest friends, and with many individuals who have lost spouses, children, and loved ones in my many years as a pastor. What have I learned?
The loss of a parent, a spouse, a child, or a friend is extremely difficult. As believers in Christ, even though we have the hope of eternal life, we still go through deep struggles and grief. Our grief is not without hope, yet it is still grief. It truly is the valley of the shadow of death. At times it is dark and lonely. We feel isolated and alone. And we wonder if we will ever get through it. Yet, the promise of Psalm 23 can sustain us and give us hope.
The beginning of the Psalm proclaims – “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” In the next verses we see that the Shepherd leads us to green pastures so we can be refreshed and find rest. The Shepherd leads us to still waters so that we can be renewed and restored. And the Shepherd leads us in the pathway of righteousness for His Name’s sake. The common thread of all of these points is this – He leads us!
This brings us to the valley of the shadow of death. We never pass through this alone. The Good Shepherd is still leading us. He is going before us in the darkness, and He is guiding us through this valley. This does not mean that we will not have sorrow or grief. Yet it does assure us that we will pass through it, that He will not abandon or leave us there. We are assured that there is comfort, healing, and restoration awaiting us on the other side.
The Psalmist assures us – “…I will fear no evil, for you are with me…
Then the Psalmist makes a proclamation. He says – “Your rod and your staff they comfort me.” What does this mean? The Shepherd used his rod to protect His sheep. The Lord promises to protect us from the pitfalls of the valley, as well as the attacks of the enemy. If we stay close to His path, He will not allow the enemy of our souls to overcome us in our times of weakness and sorrow. The Lord stands as our defender. He holds His rod in hand to overcome the enemy during our greatest times of sorrow and weakness.
The Shepherd also carries His staff. The staff was used to guide, correct, and keep the sheep on the right path. If a sheep wandered away from the path the staff would be used to guide him back, and to rescue him if he was in peril. The staff is a symbol of God’s love that watches over us in our times of deepest sorrow and grief. At these times we are the most vulnerable to losing our way. Yet, the Shepherd guides and restores us with the staff of His grace, mercy, and love. He is the Good Shepherd who cares for His sheep – at all times.
I have witnessed the power of His rod and staff in my life, and in the life of so many who have faced and walked through the valley of the shadow of death. Everyone grieves differently, yet the Good Shepherd cares for us each according to our individual needs. The one common denominator that I have seen for everyone who has placed their faith in Jesus Christ is – they have made it through! They have discovered, in time, that the Lord was there with them, every step of the way.
His rod and His staff were comforting them, even when they were not aware of it.
Talking about death is hard. No one wants to experience the death of a loved one. Yet, death is something that we will all deal with, both in our lifetime, and ultimately when we meet the Lord at the end of our life. The blessed assurance that we have in both instances is that the Shepherd awaits to lead us through the valley of the shadow of death. When we lose a loved one, He will lead us through. When we come to the end of our life, He will usher us into His glory in heaven. Therefore, with the Psalmist we can boldly proclaim,
“…I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”
Lord, this morning I want to thank you for leading me through the valley of the shadow of death when I have lost those whom I have loved. I want to thank you for Your faithfulness that I have witnessed in the many people I have walked with through their own personal losses. And I want to thank you that I know, that I know, that I know, that at the end of my days You stand waiting to receive me as my Good Shepherd to lead me into eternal life. Lord, may You bring this comfort and assurance to all those in need of it today!
In Jesus Name!