The speaker at the men’s retreat I attended recently spoke to us about Psalm 23. Honestly, I’ve recited this psalm so much, that I kind of forget the simple impact it ought to have. Our speaker pointed out a few key things. The Lord is our shepherd. That means that the One who is our provider and protector, our owner and to whom we owe fealty is the one who cares for us. We are beholden to Him. He speaks and we obey, without question.
Once He has restored me, this Lord “leads me along the right paths for His name's sake” (v.3b). Generally, we stop here, but note where He leads us: “the darkest valley” (v.4)! If He is the one leading us, then the darkest valley is part of the “right paths”. He is with us in the dark valley. It is here that His rod and staff become a comfort. Even more, it is in the dark that He prepares a feast for us (v. 5)! Too often we are caught up with ourselves to realize this incredible reality: it is in the dark that the feast is found. So, if you want to really know your Lord, you will have to go through the darkest valley. In the valley we are stripped of our illusions and imaginative explanations and left naked before the truth. Often we try to stitch our own fig leaves to cover ourselves, but God wants us to sit down and feast on His goodness, His comfort, His presence, knowing that His goodness and faithful love will be with us until we return to His house where we will rest.
So, when you’re in the dark, stop and think: listen for the Lord; look for the feast and rest in the comfort knowing that He is there with His rod and staff to lead you in those right paths for His name’s sake.