These past few weeks, God has been going after my pride, showing it to me in one area after another of my life.
But I’m grateful. I’d experienced elsewhere the intimacy found in the valley of the shadow of death; I knew that in this valley third person pronouns switch to first person. (“He leads. . . He restores. . . He guides” becomes “. . .You are with me.” —Psalm 23) I hadn’t known I could experience the intimacy of that valley through the small death of seeing a still deeper layer of sin in myself.
But here I am, this sheep who startles easily at shadows, learning that I don’t need to be afraid here because my Shepherd never leaves me alone in this valley.
“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.”
“I will fear no evil.” No evil—neither the evil that’s ‘out there,’ nor the evil that is within me. That matters because, for some of us, an even more paralyzing danger than pride may be the fear of pride. I know I can’t always see my true motives. And even when I can, I’m powerless to fix myself. In this valley full of shadows where I can’t see clearly to sort everything out and I know there’s evil not only outside but within me, I can move ahead only because I can focus on listening to His voice and following Him, trusting Him to take care of the evil both outside and within me.
“Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” His rod comforts me, that rod that is used not on me but on the things that would try to destroy me. When God lets me see the depth of the sin in me, I’m so grateful He’s armed and intent on destroying that sin!
And His staff comforts me, the staff that is used to round up the flock, keeping me on the right path and bringing me back when I wander. As much as I want to follow close, He wants it more. And in the moments I wander and wonder how closely I really do want to follow, He keeps calling me back.
David got it right. One of the best reasons to celebrate is that “we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.” (Psalm 100:3)
The Heidelberg Catechism got it right too:
Q1. What is your only comfort in life and in death?
A1. That I am not my own, but belong, body and soul, in life and in death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ . . .