Psalm 23, written by David, endures as one of the most comforting psalms in the Bible. David had certainly been through enough trials during his life, trials in which God had rescued him and preserved him, so he knew firsthand the supporting love of God. He had had to run from the first king of Israel who planned to kill him (Saul); he had had to lead the Israelite nation back to God amid much dissent. So David knew, both as a God-fearing king and as a human being, that God could reach through the shadows he felt around him and be with him.
This psalm depicts God as a shepherd, and us as His flock; the images of the rod and staff, symbolizing leadership and guidance, show God’s characteristics as a fair and just God, as well as a loving and forgiving God. We, as spiritual “sheep,” tend to scatter sometimes and find ourselves in unfamiliar and scary places; this verse reminds us that God is still very close by, even when we feel terribly afraid and alone.
There have been times when I have been lost (literally), unable to find my way home or find my way to the place I was heading to. In those moments, I felt that shadows loomed up around me, shadows of fear and of possibly never getting back to safety. And yet, in each situation, just the right people showed up at just the right time to point me towards the right road to take. Spiritually, this has happened to me several times as well–guidance shows up at the moment when I am feeling isolated and in pain. This is God’s doing; in each case, He knew my need and answered it, both to show that He exists and to remind me that I need to trust in Him.
All of us need a reminder sometimes that God is still with us, even in the shadows where we think He won’t come to us. Even when you are the creator of the shadows around you, even when you think God won’t even see fit to look at you, He will. He passes through the walls of misunderstandings and pain as if they are not there, because to Him, they aren’t. He sees the soul in us and offers help, if we but trust Him; after all, He is the One who created us and knew us before we were even born.