Giving thanks in the valley…

Psalm 23 is amazing. I know that is a pretty obvious statement… and an under-statement. I mean, really all of God’s special revelation is amazing… but what is so uniquely amazing about the 23rd Psalm is that it is so broadly recognized as a passage of comfort and peace… even to people that deny the truthfulness of the Bible itself. It is memorized by children, memorialized on plates and plaques and tea cozies. It is a passage of Scripture that, at least culturally, transcends its connection to the faith to which it harkens.

I have always wondered why this is the case. Of the 150 Psalms, why is the 23rd so elevated in people’s minds? Well, I am sure there are countless reasons, but one of the things I find most compelling about it is the way David is able to raise a voice of thanksgiving and praise in the middle of seemingly difficult circumstances. As you read it below, notice how he talks about the “presence of his enemies”, and “the valley of the shadow of death” and yet doesn’t fear, doesn’t have a want, and recognizes the tremendous blessing in the simplicity of his life… the restoration of the soul, the ability to follow God’s path of righteousness.

These are a profound statements for all of us right now. The economy is in the tank. Unemployment is reaching new heights. Our country is still at war on multiple fronts. And if we look up at just the right moment we may even see the sky falling… I have had my share of hardship and heartache in the past year. And to be honest, I have wanted to reserve my praise and adoration to God until after I see how things pan out. But David isn’t doing that… He is able to give thanks as he looks at his enemies, he his able to praise God in the midst of the darkness.

So, what would it take for us to echo the words, thoughts, and actions of David? What would it take to praise when we feel like doing anything but? What would it take for us to give thanks as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death?

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
3 He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.

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.

5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.

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