But God’s love strengthens us, by Chris Daly

1 Corinthians 8:2 But while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church.

Psalm 23:6 Goodness and grace will pursue me every day of my life.

Death’s Dark Ravine

Ilyas Orasbayev: Shutterstock

Alzheimer’s had robbed my mother of nearly everything over the last ten years of her life—speech, mobility, even her personality. But not her soul, who she really was.

Sitting by her bedside in March 2020 while she was drawing near to heaven, I began to read Psalm 23 to Mom, hoping it would be a comfort to her heart.

In my quest to let this well-loved portion of Scripture really rest with us and let the Lord speak to us through it, I read Psalm 23 to Mom, day and night, in every version of the Spanish and English Bibles I found on YouVersion. Spanish was Mom’s first language, so I had started a few years earlier to sometimes speak, play music, sing, and read to Mom in Spanish– in case it still connected with her soul.   

I began to write my own paraphrase of Psalm 23, and in looking at ten or eleven versions of the Bible, the Holy Spirit gifted me with a personalized vision of His Shepherd’s heart for me and my mother. His joy and hope gradually soaked into my deepest being. My heart was saturated, just as Jesus promises in verse five! “You honor me as Your guest, and you fill my cup until it overflows.”

So, in spite of exhaustion and profound grief at seeing my mother withering away in front of us, I experienced God’s presence in a way I never had before. I felt a gentle refreshing of my soul. The Lord hand-fed me with cool restorative water, and gave new life to my desiccated heart. “He leads me by quiet water, He restores my inner person.” (verse 3) 

My Shepherd opened my eyes to understand for the first time that the “enemy watching” was Satan himself. The devil was witness to the feast being spread before me, while Jesus, the Bread of Life, was feeding me Himself to strengthen and renew me.  “You prepare a feast before me, in plain sight of my enemies.” (verse 5)

“Even if I pass through death-dark ravines, I will fear no disaster; for You are with me…Goodness and grace will pursue me every day of my life.“(verses 4, 6). Jesus revealed to me that His compassionate love and His goodness wererunning after me, not passively standing behind me. I had always previously pictured verse 6 to mean that His faithfulness and mercy were following me, lagging behind, casually loitering. But, no! Jesus was chasing me down with His chesed (the Hebrew word that means permanent, covenantal, faithful love), actively running with me through the Valley of the Shadow of Death.  

It was an enormous, bleak, sometimes pitch-dark valley. But I experienced His tender companionship as a sweet and kind gift–the steadfast love of our Father. (verse 6) And now Mom is enjoying Him face to face, now and forever.

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