No matter what religious background or belief you hold, you're likely familiar with Psalm 23-- a Biblical passage often read at funerals across America to comfort those who mourn. While you may have heard the chapter many times and might possibly even be able to quote it from memory, not everyone is familiar with the meaning behind the popular collection of verses. In the everyday American life, it's rare to encounter a shepherd-- so calling God a shepherd in the passage and equating the hard parts of life with shepherding analogies can be just as helpful as using metaphors from the local grocery store. Gaining a full understanding of the exegesis of the passage (a word which means a better understanding of the historical context of the text) can help to provide true relief and hope in hard moments.
He Restores My Soul
The passage states that "He leads me beside the still waters," and "He restores my soul." While that may seem pretty point blank obvious, the word "restores" in the original Hebrew language is the word shuwb, a word which means "to return", "to reverse", or "to bring home again." By claiming that the Lord restores the soul, the writer David is harkening all the way back to the first chapters of Genesis, which tell the story of Adam and Eve-- the human souls who decided to go their own way, choosing to bring sin into the world.
In Psalm 23, David is literally saying: God will reverse in your soul the process of sin and brokenness that you inherited through Adam and Eve. God is not simply helping you through your hard time, he is reversing and redeeming all broken things.
Rod and Staff Bring Comfort
The words "rod" and "staff" may bring up images of negative punishment for you, like the picture of a child being spanked with a rod by their parent. This is, of course, not the image David is trying to convey. In Biblical times, a shepherd would use a rod or a staff for multiple purposes-- to guide the sheep from place to place safely, to count them and make sure no sheep were missing, and to fight off any fierce predatory animals who may come looking for a meal.
David likens humans to sheep, saying that God is the Shepherd and He uses the rod and staff to comfort them. By watching over you and protecting you from adversity, you can be sure that God will bring beauty from your pain. Just as the sheep followed and trusted the Shepherd even in times that looked sketchy, so God will be happy to protect those who are willing to follow Him.
For more guidance during times of adversity, a church such as Van Nest Assembly of God can be a comfort to you. Seek out churches in your area so that the community and fellowship can help guide you through hard times.