In difficult times, I draw upon Psalm 23. It’s not because it’s probably the best known psalm nor is it because I memorized it in my third grade Sunday school class and still can remember the words to this day.  Rather, it’s primarily because of the phrase in verse 4, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley…” Experiencing disaster and trauma, (natural or human caused) or conflict and confusion, (relationally or institutionally) the phrase Even though I walk through the darkest valley has become a mantra for me. It has become a living prayer for the “facing of these hours.”

First, this phrase reminds us that the impacts of a situation necessitates a walk rather than a sprint.  It will take time, energy and intentionality to heal, reconcile and make whole.   Literally, one has to walk through the difficulty, demise and even devastation.  You can’t run through it or jump over it nor can you remain motionless. You have to intentionally walk through the dark valley or as the KJV translates it “the valley of the shadow of death.”  That is challenging, particularly when our culture moves so quickly. Often I say to my colleagues – “Tend to your pacing” because I know that the situation in which they find themselves will involve time, drain energy and require them to act intentionally. Walking through is often demanding.

We do not really know how long we’ll be impacted by COVID-19 but a realistic assessment indicates that life will not go back to normal anytime in the near future. We have some walking through still to go but let us not overlook the rest of the verse. It is also a part of the mantra.  As we manage our way through, we need to hear the assurance of the Psalmist and not fear… Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; God is present with us. I don’t say that causally, nor to ease your unsettledness. I say it to remind you that as we walk through this time, we are not alone – ever.  God’s presence is always there and will always be there in the future as well.  We are God’s people – attached to the Vine.  As the beloved of Christ, we are called to represent the goodness of life, invited to live with the reality of divine blessing and challenged to care for each other.  It may be a long walk through. So friends, I say to you, “Tend to your pacing and trust God.”

 

Scripture Reading: Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters;

he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.

 

Reflection Questions:

As you walk through this difficult time what makes you most fearful?

How is your cup still overflowing?

What does goodness and mercy mean to you?

 

Prayer: Shepherding God show us your path as we make our way through this disturbing time. Lessen our fear.  When we struggle to make sense of what social distancing means lead us to a pace and place of still waters. Remind us that our cups still overflow in your goodness. Amen.