At the close of an extraordinary year, my mind is drawn to the confession of Jacob as he was blessing his grandchildren. He spoke of “the God who has been my Shepherd all my life long to this day.” (Genesis 48:15) This has become my own confession, because the only way I can understand the many events and happenings of my life, and my family’s, is that the Good Shepherd has led us all the way. Through the valleys of dark shadows–and I am so glad that Psalm 23 does not merely say “into the valley,” but rather, “Yea, though I walk through the valleys”–God has always been present.
How many times have you been aware of that strange sensation, a rather marvelous sensation, really, of being able to sense the strong Presence of the Lord in the presence of enemies, the spiritual enemies that attack and try to take away joy? And yet the joy increases because our Shepherd has set a table before us in the presence of our enemies.
As the New Year begins, our family is making the 3 confessions of Psalm 23:
We shall not want, we shall be perfectly content in every situation, because the Lord is our Shepherd. (verse 1)
We shall not be afraid, because the Shepherd is with us. (verse 4)
We shall dwell in the presence of the Lord, because goodness and mercy continue to follow us. (verse 6)
Some time ago, a dear lady from North Korea who sought refuge in the South told me about her father, who left the North in the late 1950’s for freedom in Seoul. He was unable to take his daughter because she had injured her leg, promising to return for her the next year. But the border was closed the next year. She was a little nine year old girl at the time, and her mother would take her under the thick blanket at night, and very secretly and silently sing to her the hymns of the Church, and recite a verse of Scripture to her. As she was reminiscing on those early years of great suffering, unbearable suffering, she said that she learned to walk through the valley of the shadow of death with Jesus, Her Shepherd and Guide. Today she is an “under-shepherd,” walking under the Great Shepherd of the sheep, to serve God’s people in the South. She walks in joy.
So it is with us. We walk through our deep valleys and suddenly discover that we are singing, praising the Lord and overcoming. Our fears are turned into strength, and we are ready for a new year. May you walk, in this New Year, with the God who has been your Shepherd all your life long to this day. And let us pray for the millions of people who are suffering, persecuted because of their faith, or those who are encountering unbearable loneliness and sickness. Perhaps you can be their shepherd.