Hae Woo (not her real name) was imprisoned in a North Korean labor camp for crossing the border into China. The days and nights were torture, she said, with brutal guards, backbreaking work, and little sleep on an ice-cold floor with rats and lice. But God helped her daily, including showing her which prisoners to befriend and share her faith with.
After she was released from the camp and living in South Korea, Woo reflected on her time of imprisonment, saying that Psalm 23 summed up her experience. Although she’d been trapped in a dark valley, Jesus was her Shepherd who gave her peace: “Even though it felt as if I was literally in a valley full of the shadow of death, I wasn’t afraid of anything. God comforted me every day.” She experienced God’s goodness and love as He reassured her that she was His beloved daughter. “I was in a terrible place, but I knew . . . I would experience God’s goodness and love.” And she knew she’d stay in the Lord’s presence forever.
We can find encouragement in Woo’s story. Despite her dire circumstances, she felt God’s love and leading; and He sustained her and took away her fear. If we follow Jesus, He will lead us gently through our times of trouble. We need not fear, for “[we] will dwell in the house of the
When have you experienced God’s presence in a dark valley? Who can you encourage today?
In the ancient Near East, shepherding was not only a familiar image but also had royal connotations, sometimes used metaphorically to describe the role of gods and kings in leading and caring for their people. Psalm 23, therefore, is not only an intimate description of a vibrant relationship with God, but a bold proclamation that the psalmist trusts in and is committed to following only “the L
At the very center of Psalm 23 are the words “you are with me” (v. 4), echoing the repeated scriptural theme of God’s comforting and guiding presence with us as the reason we need not fear (see Genesis 15:1; Joshua 1:9). When Jesus came, He emphasized that He was the Good Shepherd, the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise to be with us (Matthew 1:23; John 10:11).