“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4 ESV).
David’s prayer in Psalm 23 took on greater meaning for me this past week. As I walked for exercise one day this past week, I happened upon a domestic violence incident in progress. Another onlooker called emergency services while I asked if the apparent victim needed help. Before the incident ended, one of the individuals pulled out a weapon. I filed a report with the policemen who showed up of what I had seen before I left the scene.
As our families and communities adapt to new restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, individuals and families alike feel increased fear and tension. Interruption of customary routines, restricted travel, and loss of income potentially increase episodes of depression that contribute to family violence or suicidal ideation. Regular exercise by walking is one of my coping methods, along with prayer and reading, during this time. I have become more aware of “social distancing” during recent weeks, and took a cloth mask with me on my most recent walk.
David refers to the “valley of the shadow of death” or “the darkest valley” in Psalm 23. Our time is a dark valley for many people. We unexpectedly have found ourselves walking in the valley of the shadow of death, as I did during my walk that afternoon. Let’s take care of ourselves during this time by washing our hands thoroughly, following guidelines on social distancing, eating well, sleeping enough, and exercising. Critical parts of our self-care include maintaining our relationships with God, our family, and friends. We may not be able to visit those friends and family that we yearn to see right now. We can check on one another by phone calls, emails, and messaging. We can pray and keep working on our relationship with God through Bible study and singing of spiritual songs during this time.
As we walk together through this time, let’s be alert to what our family, neighbors, and friends may need. Let’s be aware of our own needs, too. In the United States, the national suicide prevention hotline is 800-273-8255. If you’re overwhelmed, ask for help before you hurt yourself or someone else. If you’re being abused, seek safety.
This is a time to “call for fire,” to pray urgently for God to act quickly with grace and healing. It’s a time where loving others as we love ourselves is urgent. Consideration for others may just save their lives, and maybe even our own. Pray hard, my friends.
O God, our shepherd, guide us carefully through these treacherous times. Threats to our health and our security emerge without warning. Fear and panic threaten to cripple us. Suspicion and cynicism threaten our unity. I pray that we will walk with you now instead of running away in fear. Help us to discern truth and to choose wisely where we go and what we do. May these experiences increase faith in you and awareness of your love. Thank you for keeping us safe thus far. In Jesus’ name, amen.