Psalm 23 | A Reflection on Coronavirus, the Bible, and Our Response
We reflect on Psalm 23 and how it should inform our faith and response to the current coronavirus.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) is impacting all of us—both as individuals and communities. The very fabric of everyday life is changing before us; these are unprecedented times. In the midst of this, we're invited to find God. We reflect on Psalms 23 and its implications for our lives—now, more than ever.
1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
As we read the passage today, it is easy to feel that we are now indeed walking through the “darkest valley” and that there is no end in sight. But, as everything with God, we are invited towards greater trust—and in the process experience more hope, peace, and beauty in the midst of suffering.
Walter Brueggemann, in his book, The Message of The Psalms, categorizes all 150 psalms into one of three movements—orientation, disorientation, and reorientation. Each of these movements exemplify a fragment of the human experience:
- Orientation: when everything feels right and content in our lives
- Disorientation: when life feels difficult, dark, and broken. There is lament. There is despair.
- Re-Orientation: when God pulls us out of the brokenness of life and we are brought to a deeper sense of awareness and gratitude.
Brueggemann argues that we go through rhythms of orientation to disorientation to re-orientation—it is part of the natural human experience.
This is the beauty of Psalms 23, and perhaps why it has become one of the most famous passages in human history. In this single passage all three movements exist; Psalms 23 is a compilation of the entire rhythm of the human experience.
The first three verses are of orientation: “The Lord is my sheperd; I shall not want.” Life is good, happy, blessed. The Lord provides us with lush green pastures and refreshing waters. God is known to be reliable and a source of all our needs. Verse four suggests disorientation—the “darkest valley”—a description of the trauma and suffering we go through as humans and communities. And, later in verse four, there is re-orientation. The psalter declares, “for you are with me”. There is an expression of trust and confidence in the presence of God in spite of suffering.
These are uncertain times. The future feels out of our control. In many ways, we have just moved from orientation to disorientation.
But, as a community, we are invited towards re-orientation. We are invited into the natural rhythm of the human experience—to move from disorientation to re-orientation and to declare “for you are with me”. And so, this means we should do our part in our communities—practice social distancing, wash our hands—but it also means we should pray and recall “surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life.” May it be so. Amen.
Words: Daniel Fong
Photo: Bryan Ye-Chung