Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.
Psalm 23:4
It’s hard to think of “green pastures” and “still waters” when one is fighting busy traffic on the interstate. Yet the 23rd Psalm remains one of the most go-to pieces of Scripture, because of the beautiful images it paints in our minds. When I think of today’s verse, I imagine a deep valley filled with jagged rocks. It is so narrow and steep that the sun cannot reach the bottom of the valley. In this “valley” it is cold, desolate, lonely and dangerous. There are dangerous rocks and cliffs, rock-slides are a danger at all time, it is hard to see in the darkness, and there is no sense of when it will end. 
We’ve all been in this valley. We’ve all been in dark and lonely places, whether we admit it or not. We’ve all been in a place that is dark and cold and lonely, where we miss the warmth and where we wonder when or if it will end. 
Today’s Scripture verse is very comforting and reassuring. Even when we are in “valley of the shadow of death,” even when we are in a dark place from which our escape is uncertain and our mood is fearful, God is there with us. He never leaves us. There is no need to fear. His rod and staff, the comfort us. The staff of a shepherd was used for two things—for protection, to keep shepherd and sheep safe, and for direction, to lead the sheep and to get them back in line when they went astray. 
The Lord is our shepherd, the one who keeps us safe from harm, the one who leads us back joyfully when we have gone astray. He provides rest when we are tired, in the “green pastures” and “beside still waters.” He provides us comfort and assurance when we are in the valley. We have no need to fear our enemies, for in their presence, the Lord makes sure that our cup overflows with confidence. The goodness and mercy of the Lord are with those who are faithful to Him all the days of their life. And “dwelling in the house of the Lord forever” is the reward for those who trust in God enough to keep walking through the valley when life gets tough.
No, I don’t think about green pastures and still waters very often, when fighting traffic on the way to work, or when fighting fatigue in the office, or fighting to get everything done properly. However, when these things happen, I am comforted to know that the Lord is my Shepherd, who is watching over me at all times and in all places. And even in the darkest places, He’s looking out for me.
I’m reminded of the story of the footprints in the sand, where a man has a dream has a dream, where he is walking with the Lord on the beach. He sees two sets of footprints, one belonging to him and one to the Lord. He sees the scenes of his life. At the most difficult moments of his life, he sees only one set of footprints and questions the Lord, why at his most critical moments, it seems that the Lord abandoned him. The Lord says to the man, “I didn’t abandon you in your most trying moments, that’s when I carried you.” 
It takes some faith and trust to believe that the Lord will carry us through our difficult moments, but He absolutely will and absolutely does, even when we are in “the valley of the shadow of death.” 
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want; He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters; He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me. Thou prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies; Thou anointest my head with oil, my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23)
Trust in God to get you through the rough patches!


Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis

Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros has produced multiple books, you can view here: https://amzn.to/3nVPY5M


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