The Psalmist's Coping Formula

Any problem--despondency, discouragement, darkness, even death--we can successfully survive.

Delbert W. Baker

M. Scott Peck wrote in his book The Road Less Traveled: “Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it.”

David knew that reality when he wrote Psalm 23. Evidence? These words: “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (verse 4).

Psalm 23 is one of the most beloved passages in the Bible. Let’s focus on eight formulaic truths in its masterful verse 4 that may provide RAMPWAYS to a fresh way of connecting and cooperating with God’s providence.

Any problem—despondency, discouragement, darkness, even death—we can successfully survive.

Any problem—despondency, discouragement, darkness, even death—we can successfully navigate. These principles and affirmations provide RAMPWAYS to the better future God has for us.

REALITY: “Even though I . . .” The world has been horribly blighted by sin and evil. Unfortunately, this evil resides in us as well. Sin is with us at birth, and often, because of our lusts, it is inside us by invitation. We all have our valleys (see 2 Tim. 3:12). We will experience sin’s impact!

ABILITY: “. . . walk . . .” We all can keep walking, persevering physically or spiritually (see Phil. 4:13). We are not admonished to skip, run, or jog; no heroics, just walk. When darkness falls and we can barely walk, we will. We will keep walking!

MIND-SET: “. . . through . . .” By God’s grace and His staying power, we will survive our trials, whatever they are. “Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Ps. 30:5). We will endure this!

PROBLEM: “. . . the darkest valley . . .” Again, there will be valleys, shadows, and death in this vale of tears. No one is exempt. Our character and stamina are shown by how we handle our valleys (see 2 Tim. 2:3). We accept this valley!

WEATHERED: “. . . I will fear no evil, . . .”Since God is with us, we can choose not to fear. Why? Because we’re His children, and “the one who is in [us] is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). In fact, we already know, as we enter the valley, that though there will be pain and suffering, “God works for the good of those who love him” (Rom. 8:28). We will be encouraged!

ASSURANCE: “. . . for you are with me . . .” This is our anchor. God is with us always, everywhere (see Matt. 28:20). Through water and fire He is by our side (see Isa. 43:2). Lord, we embrace Your partnership!

YIELDEDNESS: “. . . your rod and your staff, . . .” We need much character work. God’s discipline may often be difficult, but it is for our good (see Heb. 12:6). Lord, we accept your providence!

SPIRIT: “. . . they comfort me.” God’s rod and staff are controlled by the Holy Spirit. He is our friend and comforter (John 14:26). What to some may be bruising, we accept as a blessing. We accept what God allows!

By God’s grace we will emerge from this valley.

Delbert W. Baker is vice chancellor of Adventist University of Africa, near Nairobi, Kenya.

Delbert W. Baker