Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23:6
I am probably very similar to you. My first experience with this verse and the five stanzas that precede it occurred at a funeral. As a result, I assumed the narrator, the psalmist’s voice was someone who had died, and the prose described his entry into heaven. The goodness and mercy promised by the psalmist existed as the reward of heaven, the house of the Lord.
Then, a drunk driver killed my daughter.
Instantly, the context for Psalm 23 completely changed, and I didn’t just walk. Instead, I took up residence in the “valley of the shadow of death.”
In and outside of the tent I had pitched in denial and heartache, I encountered the sacred covenant of verse six. God’s goodness revealed itself as folks I knew and others I didn’t know who prayed for our little clan. He wrapped his arms around us as our school kids and football family from the previous 25 years showed up ̵̶̶ some sitting in the ICU waiting room hour after hour.
His goodness showed up again when our superintendent and a dear colleague made arrangements for our yard care for six weeks and again when the athletic department delivered multiple ice chests full of drinks with the offer to refill.
In the months that followed, God’s goodness allowed girl after girl who had been a friend or just a mere acquaintance of our fiery red-head to find me and share a story or a memory. I could write pages about how his goodness showed up in tangible and intangible ways and still leave out the acts of the sweetest souls.
In the seven years since my sweet girl left us, God’s mercy has protected our marriage, gentled our spirits, and blessed our family. God’s mercy sent beautiful hearts who had, unfortunately, walked this path before me to hold my hand, find me in the empty, and sit with me in the hurt.
Followed by goodness and mercy
Jesus did not take away the sadness; my faith did not replace my daughter. The mercy that warms my soul does not ease the ache my arms feel without her here to hold.
I am still sad ̶ a kind of sad that finds me in the most joy-filled moments,
But in “the house of the Lord,” in this life he has offered me, I am surely followed by “goodness and mercy.”
You are goodness
Your hands and feet also decorate the houses of others with goodness each time you show up in another family’s life, each time you love a kid back, each time you bear the load of your family while your coach serves his team.
Each time you choose not to respond to the sometimes ugliness in the bleachers and whisper a prayer instead (even if it’s just a request to protect those who are spewing trash from you), you are offering mercy and goodness.
No doubt you have been the mercy Psalms 23:6 speaks of for others when you smile at the Chick-fil-A cashier even though your own joy meter is running on empty, when you hold the door open for the young mama trying to get three under five into Target, or when you take the deepest breathe so you don’t scream at the cherubs you brought into this world because they’ve left their clean laundry on the stairs for the third day in a row.
While the prose of Psalm 23 is written in the present tense, which I believe is an important detail to notice, I think we have to acknowledge that it is difficult to grasp God’s goodness and mercy in “the darkest hour”̶ that moment described by Lauren Daigle‘s song, Remember. And yet, her lyrics continue as her voice lifts, crying, “you have always been faithful to me.”
That’s where verse six of Psalm 23 manifests itself for me. That darkest hour is always with me as my whole being misses my Taylor Renee. But if I intentionally remember, if I turn and look, I can see God’s goodness and mercy following me in those days and today. So I hope you turn and look to see how it follows you and how it fills you up. Because I know you are the goodness and the mercy God has given your coach.
Note to Reader: We all bring our different life experiences when we read any kind of literature – but especially Scripture; consequently, the body of the work will resonate uniquely with each of us. My goal is not to put the Holy Spirit in a box by saying or implying – “Here’s what these words mean…” Instead, I hope you read each devotional knowing that God wants to speak to you too. Our experiences may be different, but we can all learn from each other’s lives. God will meet you where you are, the same way he meets me if you ask him to.