Psalm 23 … it is one of the most popular passages in all of the Bible. But why? When you read it in its entire context, you might notice that there is more to it than initially meets the eye. Look, again at what it says:
“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 paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 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. 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 forever.”
If you look at the italics in the above passage, the peace and comfort God so richly provides us does not usually come by way of calm, uneventful, and unobtrusive times in our life. It often comes in the unwelcome chaos—the times it is the most challenging to see God’s goodness. But that is exactly what God does.
We see a prime example of this in the life of Joseph and the roundabout way he became second in command over all of Egypt. Not only did it happen after his brothers sold him into slavery, forever to cut him off from his family of origin, but it happened after a host of other unfortunate events. The road Joseph traveled was an extremely difficult one.
In all these moments, though, we see this same theme repeat itself time and time again: “The LORD was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor (Gen. 39:21, ESV).” God never abandoned him, even if his circumstances did not immediately solve themselves. In fact, even after this statement above, Joseph thought he finally purchased his ticket out of the pit he found himself in due to his ability to interpret a dream for a fellow prisoner. But we read this in Genesis 40:23 (ESV): “Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.”
It was two more years before Joseph would get another opportunity to leave the prison because he interpreted a dream for Pharoah. And Joseph’s miraculous ascension to royal authority takes place in Genesis 41:39–42 (ESV):
“Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command. Only as regards the throne will I be greater than you.’ And Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.’ Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand, and clothed him in garments of fine linen and put a gold chain about his neck.”
It is an incredible story, and as Pastor Mike Halstead preached on last Sunday, it is a story that puts the onus directly on us to respond.
During our toughest times, how will we respond? What can we learn from the stress and turmoil of life in all its difficulties? Will we pull away from God and run from Him? Or, draw near to His heart and let him take care of us in the pit? Will we focus on the pain of our situation? Or, find the things in it that we are thankful for? Regardless of how we respond to any of these questions, the fact remains: God can meet us right where we are. Whether or not we allow Him to meet us there is up to us.
So, the next time life throws you an inevitable curve ball, do yourself a favor, and as you ask God “Why Me?”, hold fast to these precious words from Peter in 1 Peter 1:6-9 (ESV):
“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith–more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire–may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen Him, you love Him. Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
And then take the time to read Psalm 23, again, in a new light, and allow those same words we know so well penetrate the deepest parts of your soul in a whole new way.
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF:
- What is it about suffering that is so hard to understand … even as we can look back and reflect on what we learned from it?
- Why is Psalm 23 so well-known? What can we learn from it?
- What resonates with you most about the story of Joseph? What does not?
- How has suffering in your life shown itself? What were some of the most important things you learned from it?
- Is there someone you know, with whom you can walk through life? What can you do to help them?
“ORIENTATION. DISORIENTATION. REORIENTATION.” SERIES IN REVIEW …