“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life.” – Psalm 23:6a, NKJV
*DM after playing in an undergraduate football game in 2002
A mentor of mine from my undergraduate days, Spencer Jones, pointed out some wording in this famous Psalm making a lesson of it. This lesson has stuck with me for now over a decade.
He emphasized the words “shall follow me” in verse six. The idea is that we may not see God’s goodness and mercy in our present circumstances. It takes time for us to develop the necessary perspective. After all, we have to look back to see what follows us. And my mentor added that it maybe frustrating that the verse does not say “precedes me” or something else than “shall follow me.”
Something my mentor did not note was how this is a statement of faith in the present, though. The Psalmist says “shall follow” as if he expects and trusts in faith that he will see God’s goodness and mercy extending behind him even though he cannot see it today. In fact, he just wrote the words of walking through the “the valley of the shadow of death” (23:4b). The Psalmist is professing his faith in God and saying he trusts God will work something merciful and good out of his journey no matter how dark. Even death will not make him fear as long as he is with his God.
I can testify to the truth these verses illuminate. At the time, I thought my world was over with the separation, adultery discovery, and then divorce. In fact, I was devastated when the divorce actually became final. I had hoped to the end. However, I can testify to what the Psalmist says.
Today, I see God’s goodness and mercy following me.
God mercifully separated me from my adulterous spouse through divorce knowing I was unwilling to do so myself at the time. And in God’s goodness, He redeemed and redeems those dark valleys to birth ministry (e.g. this blog and chaplaincy) and used that suffering to prepare me to be the man Aubree would marry.
You may be walking through your own “valley of the shadow of death” today. Remember, God is with you, and trust in faith someday you will be able to see the truth of Psalmist’s words saying with me “surely goodness and mercy [did] follow me all the days of my life.”