“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me. …”
The familiar words of Psalm 23 reveal important truths that can help us find comfort in fearful times. And to be sure, we’ve known fearful times recently. COVID-19, harsh reminders of racism, police brutality, protests turned to riots and looting, overt divisiveness in the nation’s political structures – all are suggestive of the valleys of life.
Walking through the valley of the shadow of death is inevitable. It’s not a pleasant truth, but critical for us nonetheless. The same way we enjoy the serenity of life’s hilltops, we must also expect frequent treks through life’s treacherous valleys. It is in those inescapable valleys that we find potential sources for fear.
The mistake we tend to make, however, is thinking we can circumvent the valley, that we can avoid the sources of fear. We forget that together with all of the wonderful promises of God is the promise that “in this world you shall have tribulation” (John 16:33). This is a difficult reality, but it leads to the second truth.
Fear is a choice. The psalmist emphatically declared, “I will fear no evil.” He is determined that while in the valley, he will not succumb to fear.
In an age dominated by social media, reality television and the opinion-driven nature of cable network news, we have access to content that constantly reminds us just how deep in the valley we are. What if we chose to limit our time on the numerous media outlets available to us? Might we experience less fear?
Consider the words of Paul in Philippians 4:8, “Finally brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any praise, think on these things.”
Sometimes we choose fear by choosing to entertain the sources of our fears. This we can control.
Lastly, finding comfort in fearful times requires that we trust God in spite of our fears. The turmoil we have experienced over the past several months has revealed, in my own congregation, the mistaken tendency to diversify faith: to trust God and CDC guidelines, to trust God and the economy or to trust God and the promises made by our political leaders.
But this is not the sentiment of the psalmist. David, the proposed author of Psalm 23, was a man of valor and a skilled warrior, with an army of loyal soldiers standing ready, awaiting his command. But David did not find comfort in the resources at his disposal. Ultimately, what gave him impetus to refuse fear was his sole confidence in an ever present, all powerful God. Note the strong and certain affirmation, “for thou art with me.”
Faith in God’s abiding presence is the only true remedy for fear. And when we embrace this truth, there is an unfailing source of comfort available to each of us that comes from knowing that no matter what difficulties we face, there is no need to fear because we are not alone. God is with us.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bryan Price is pastor of Love Fellowship Baptist Church in Romeoville, Ill. This article first appeared in The Illinois Baptist.)