~by Louis Templeman
His Name In The Valley
One of the most beloved of all Scripture passages is Psalms 23, which begins, “The Lord is my shepherd . . . .” This passage may be widely and readily taken to heart because most of us, like sheep, feel vulnerable to the ravages of life and long for the protection of a divine shepherd.
This psalm of comfort does not ignore the perils of life for it speaks of “enemies,” the “valley of the shadow of death,” and of our need for the shepherd’s “rod” and “staff”.
The pivotal verse of this psalm is verse 3, “you guide me on the right path for the sake of your name.” Our faith in the name of the Lord and God’s concern for the legacy of his name is behind His shepherding work.
What or who are these enemies? Sometimes it can be the temptation to take the wrong path. It can be people, circumstances, mental or physical afflictions that oppose our well-being. Or, satan, the enemy of our souls. By the power of His name we are sustained.
St. Paul, the great evangelist, was once an enemy to God’s people. God’s people were afraid of him because of his fierce reputation for persecuting Christians. But Jesus determined to turn this enemy into a sheep.
When Jesus appeared to Paul (or, Saul, before his name change) in a vision he asked, “Saul. Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Jesus revealed to Paul that to do hurt to a believer is to do hurt to God. Paul converted and the enemy became an obedient sheep in the shepherd’s fold.
Jesus sent a local pastor in Antioch to minister to this changed man. He said, “This man is chosen . . . to carry my name . . . he will have to suffer for my name.”
What irony. Paul is now under the care of the Shepherd and yet he will have to suffer. There may be many reasons for suffering. But likely as not suffering seems unreasonable. Sometimes it may work to the glory of God. In the face of suffering God keeps the believer on the right path for the sake of His name.
Once when on a maintenance crew, I endured a year of almost unbearable suffering as an outcast. Someone had told a lie on me and the ill treatment was unfair. I needed the job so I prayed for my tormentors while practicing patience and forgiveness. Years later, a man who had made a remarkable change from a skeptic to believer came to me and said that my quiet trust in Christ during my year of torment impressed him to seek God for himself. My suffering worked out for the sake of God’s name.
If we cling to the Shepherd during our hard times and trust in the power of His name he will keep us in the right path. And, by His grace we might even be an instrument of His peace.
Louis writes from Jacksonville, Florida where he lives with his old friend and wonderful bride, Joy. They transformed their friendship into the sacrament of marriage on August 30, 2012. They share their home with two self-absorbed, playful, twin cats (Flo and Jet) and one very allusive and arrogant cat named D. Louis has recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and is fighting the good fight. Much of what he writes these days he is sharing his journey with us. Please keep Louis and his wife Joy in your prayers.
CLICK HERE to visit Louis’ Catholic Journeyman Archive