Through the Valley
One of the first Bible verses I learned was Psalm 23, “The Shepherd’s Psalm.” It is just a few words—118 words in the English version that I memorized when I was a kid, just 57 words in the original Hebrew.
The opening phrase contain these simple and reassuring words: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” The words reach across many millennia, and even now, in our highly technological and complex environments, those words help calm anxiety and fear and give me a sense of how anchored our lives can be through simple trust in Divine providence and goodness.
I learned the verses of the shepherd’s psalm from the King James Version of the Bible, where the whole Psalm reads—
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
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.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
These words still speak to me—and I am especially mindful of the verse that says,
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me.”
The Psalmist says that we walk through the valley. We don’t live there. We are not abandoned there.
Writing about this text, Rabbi Harold Kushner reminds us that “God does not, God cannot promise us happy endings in a world where laws of nature and human cruelty take their daily toll. God’s promise is not that we will be safe, but that we will never be alone.”
We are not alone. We have hope for our life journeys, wherever they lead us.