By Senote Keriakes
Cranial nerves, Cavity preparation and mental breakdowns come to mind when I reflect on my first year of uni, which was overwhelming to say the very least. Through my struggles, the beauty King David crafted into psalm 23 became undeniable.
I truly believe that the words of this psalm carried me through my semester two exam period, which was possibly one of the most challenging times of my life. Each verse had a profound impact on me and on my outlook towards this tough time.
1 The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
The first verse, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”Is a sentence which we hear repeatedly. Quite often with these repetitive religious clichés, we become desensitised to the profound meaning that is behind them. It is only when I pause and think carefully about these words that I can understand what King David is really trying to say here. For me, these words are very humbling. In the grand scheme of things, my academic achievements, relationships, and everything else in life mean nothing without God’s blessing. In other words, I am God’s sheep, and I am nothing without my shepherd.
Another part that stands out to me in this verse is “I shall not want.”The obvious interpretation here is that I won’t need anything in life, and that all my sustenance in life comes from the Lord. However, this phrase could also mean “I shall not want” another shepherd. Anything else in life which provides me with a sense of security or a sense of self-worth is temporal, and the only way in which I can be happy is if I fully rely on God in my plight.
Quite often I find that I derive my self-worth from my academic achievements, or from other worldly sources. The happiness or validation that I get from these sources is meaningless, as the only shepherd or true source of happiness I need is God.
2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
Walking through life, I am merely a child, unaware of how to navigate through life. However, I need not worry, because He is leading me. I used to think that meant that whenever I get closer to Him I instantly discover what He has in store for me. However, I have come to understand that It just means that even though I don’t know where my life is going and how it will turn out, I trust that the Lord is leading me to a place full of blessings, and that I don’t need to lean on my own understanding but acknowledge Him and He will direct my paths (Proverbs 3:5)
3 He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
I am not blessed because I deserve blessings, I am blessed by grace. Because of His awesome mercies that endure forever. Augustine of Hippo puts it best when he writes, “He hath brought me forth in the narrow ways, wherein few walk… not for my merit’s sake but for His name’s sake.”
4 Yea, 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.
This verse was perhaps the most comforting one for me out of this whole psalm.
As I walked the hallways to my final exam, I was a nervous wreck. I thought I had failed all my exams up until this point and this was my final chance. This was my valley of shadow of death. A walk that was have filled with stress and anxiety was alleviated by comparison to the reality of it all. His rod and staff were my comfort. Regardless of what happened in that last exam, one thing I knew for certain, that He would be by my side every step of the way.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
A possible outcome of my exams was failure. However, even in that case, I wouldn’t feel as if the Lord has abandoned me. The fact that I am studying the course which I dreamed of is enough of a blessing as it is. My life “runs over” with blessings, therefore should I really be disappointed when one little thing doesn’t go my way?
This way of thinking is very easy when things are going my way. The trick is to convince myself of the truth behind this statement when I feel that I am losing control of a situation. Feeling as if I am losing control isn’t entirely a bad thing, in fact I would argue that it’s a great thing.
The fact that I am losing control only means that the situation is now under the control of God. I am a human. God is God. Is it really such a bad thing for me to forfeit control of what’s going on, only for God to take control?
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
I’ve come to understand that “goodness and mercy” following me “all the days of my life” doesn’t mean that good things will always happen to me. It just means that I will be happy, and more accepting of myself as I pass through tribulation.
“The Lord was with Joseph and he was a successful man” (Genesis 39:2 NKJV)– The success of Joseph is the true aim. Spiritual success over the worldly. To be in a jail cell on earth but singing His praise internally.