In 1957, Melba Pattillo Beals was selected to be one of the “Little Rock Nine,” a group of nine African American students who first integrated the previously all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. In her 2018 memoir, I Will Not Fear: My Story of a Lifetime of Building Faith under Fire, Beals gives a heartbreaking account of the injustices and harassment she struggled to face courageously every day as a fifteen-year-old student.
But she also wrote about her deep faith in God. In her darkest moments, when fear almost overwhelmed her, Beals repeated the familiar Bible verses she had learned at an early age from her grandmother. As she recited them, she was reminded of God’s presence with her, and Scripture gave her courage to endure.
Beals frequently recited Psalm 23, finding comfort in confessing, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (v. 4). Her grandmother’s encouragement would ring through her ears as well, reassuring her that God “is as close as your skin, and you have only to call on Him for help.”
Although our particular situations may vary, we will all likely endure difficult struggles and overwhelming circumstances that could easily cause us to give in to fear. In those moments, may your heart find encouragement in the truth that God’s powerful presence is always with us.
When have you felt God’s presence in a fearful situation? How is it comforting to know that God is always with you?
Psalm 23, penned by David, is an expression of trust in God. The imagery builds the metaphor of God as a Shepherd leading His people (v. 1)—a metaphor commonly used for kings (2 Samuel 5:2; Isaiah. 44:28). The Shepherd leads the psalmist by “quiet waters” (Psalm 23:2) and “along the right paths” (v. 3), indicating the peace that sustains our journey even “through the darkest valley” (v. 4).
The rod and staff (v. 4) were typically used by shepherds to guide and protect the sheep. David knew from tending his father’s flocks that these had to be actively used to keep the sheep safe (1 Samuel 17:34–35). The mention of God’s goodness and love following him was also an active act—the Hebrew word radaph can be translated “pursue.” These final words affirm that God would be with David both during his life on earth and in heaven, where he would “dwell in the house of the