“Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil; for you are with me.”
Almost everybody recognizes Psalm 23. “The LORD is my shepherd…” It shows up in the lectionary for this Sunday. And it definitely speaks to where we are in these days.
Here we are, practicing social distancing, hearing ominous reports about the coronavirus spreading not only illness and, yes, death, but causing social and political and economic upheaval that may leave all of us forever changed in ways we can’t yet imagine. It definitely feels like we are walking “through the valley of the shadow of death.”
Yet the psalmist says, “I shall fear no evil.” Why? Because “you (God) are with me.”
Don’t feel bad if you’re asking, “So? God is with me. How does THAT help?” Sure, we say that God is inescapably present in every moment. But that doesn’t stop some moments from tearing our lives to shreds. God‘s presence is not a good luck charm. It doesn’t prevent evil. It didn’t prevent Jesus’ torture and execution.
But the psalmist didn’t say, “I won’t face evil; I won’t suffer.” This isn’t about avoiding evil. It’s about not fearing it. And experience teaches us that we gain more courage in the face of evil when we know we’re not facing it alone.
So consider what our faith teaches: we are never alone.
Does realizing that keep me from fearing evil? No. Of course not. But I do gain courage to face my fears, and to face a perilous future.