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April 16, 2019

Reflection on Psalm 23: God’s Goodness in Suffering


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 With tears in my eyes, I read the lyrics to the worship song on the screen:  

Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. 

I didn’t open my lips to sing them for fear of what sorrowful sound might leap from my mouth. In the wake of our first miscarriage, I was fighting to believe the truth of those words. 

The Good Shepherd Goes Before Us 

Months before, when my husband decided it was time for a family, fear entangled my thoughts. Before stepping into the unknowns of “trying to conceive,” we had been able to avoid hard things like infertility and miscarriage. 

But now, we were stepping into a new world and I was bracing myself. In order to fight anxiety, I committed Psalm 23:6 to memorization. It was one of many passages I sought to fill my mind with, but it was the one I continued to come back to.  

I felt the importance of the truth hidden in this verse. I knew I needed to learn it, believe it, and rehearse it to myself daily. What I was unsure of was, why? 

Why was the Holy Spirit beckoning me to hide this verse deep in my heart? Why did it seem to jump out at me as if to get my attention? I now recognize God was preparing my heart for the journey he was calling my husband and I to. 

The Good Shepherd Leads us 

When those lyrics appeared before me that day, I was left in awe of the Good Shepherd who leads us. He had led me to memorize that verse and would continue to lead me as I walked the dreaded path of recurrent pregnancy loss. 

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 
He makes me lie down in green pastures. 
He leads me beside still waters. (Psalm 23:1-2) 

Sometimes the “green pastures” don’t look so green, do they? And the waters—they’re certainly not still. Often, the path before us looks barren and storm-filled.  

Truthfully, even when our circumstances look grim, our Good Shepherd is near. Because he is enough and is working on our behalf, we can find beauty, growth, and peace in him in the midst of our hardest circumstance.  

If our Good Shepherd laid down his life to save us, his sheep, certainly we can trust his leading (John 10:11-17). 

He restores my soul. 
He leads me in paths of righteousness 
for his name’s sake. (Psalm 23:3) 

Furthermore, his paths are “paths of righteousness.” God knows best and only leads us down paths which work out for our good and his glory (Romans 8:28). As we walk through life, God is shaping us into his likeness—the most gracious thing he could do. It’s for “his name’s sake” that he does so.  

He wants to glorify himself through transforming us. 

The Good Shepherd is With Us in Suffering 

The Lord is gentle in his leading of his flock. He even carries us. 

He will tend his flock like a shepherd; 
he will gather the lambs in his arms; 
he will carry them in his bosom, 
and gently lead those that are with young. (Isaiah 40:11)

Our Good Shepherd takes us into his arms and carries us. This is important to remember when experiencing suffering. Our God is not far off. No, he’s very near to us, strengthening us in each moment. 

Not only does he give us strength to endure trials, he comforts us as we face them. 

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)

When we face our greatest fears or most gut-wrenching trials, we can cast our anxieties upon him, knowing he cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). We can take refuge in him (Psalm 46:1). Under his care, we will be comforted. For, he is the God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3). 

He’s with us and promised never to leave. This should bring the Christian deep peace and comfort, even as we face grief, suffering, and the challenges of this sin-tainted world. 

The Good Shepherd is Our Portion 

You prepare a table before me 
in the presence of my enemies; 
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows. 
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me 
all the days of my life, 
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord 
forever. (Psalm 23:5-6)  

David faced great suffering when he wrote this Psalm. He truly felt as though he was walking through the valley of the shadow of death as he was pursued by his enemies who sought to kill him.  

But he took comfort in this: regardless of his earthly circumstances, he would dwell in the house of the Lord for all eternity. Nothing could steal his salvation—not even death.  

This is why he could boldly proclaim that his “cup overflows.” His portion was Christ. 

The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; 
you hold my lot. 
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; 
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. (Psalm 16:5-6) 

We, too, have been given this portion. And he is enough. Therefore, Christians can believe that surely goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our life.  

Regardless of what is stolen from us on earth or the sorrow we may face, our salvation is secure and our inheritance is Christ. Truly, the lines have fallen in pleasant places for us. 

The Good Shepherd’s Plans are Good 

Sometimes, we wrestle with believing that God’s plans are good.  

Another translation replaces the word “surely” in verse six with “only.” Only goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.  

When I thought about this while weeping over our first unborn baby, I pondered before God…even this day, Lord? I wondered how it could be possible to face the loss of a child and believe goodness and mercy filled that day. 

It’s possible because of Jesus. 

Goodness and mercy follow us even in days of suffering because Jesus in near and his plans are only good and merciful—plans meant to lead us to righteousness and give us more of himself.  

In suffering, we may lose much, but we gain much more. We get more of Jesus, and this is a good and merciful gift. 

Surely, the Good Shepherd’s plans are good. And they are good for us. We can trust him. He will see us through. 

Editor’s Note: Go deeper with one of the most beloved portions of Scripture in Pastor Colin Smith’s sermon series on Psalm 23 titled, The Lord is My Shepherd or in the article Psalm 23 Explained Line by Line.

Brittany Allen

Brittany Allen is a follower of Christ, wife to James, and Momma to three in Heaven. She exists to bring God glory and prays her writing is an avenue for that. She longs to help other women see Jesus as their ultimate Treasure. Find her writing on her blog at and follow her on Instagram and Twitter.
Brittany Allen is a follower of Christ, wife to James, and Momma to three in Heaven. She exists to bring God glory and prays her writing is an avenue for that. She longs to help other women see Jesus as their ultimate Treasure. Find her writing on her blog at and follow her on Instagram and Twitter.