A Reflection on Psalm 23: "In the Land of the 'Even Though'"
By Terry WardleFebruary 22, 2019
Psalm 23 is a formative story. It goes like this…there is going to come a day when God is going to make you lay down. Sure, there will be green pastures that will nurture you. There will be still waters that won’t overwhelm you. But there is still a need for a staff and there is still a need for a shepherd’s crook.
There is a place in Australia called the “Never Never.” It’s in the outback. It’s a tough place. There is barrenness, stifling heat, scorpions, deadly snakes, and desolation. You’ve got to be very careful when you go to the Never Never. Its not a place for the weak of heart.
The Psalmist tells us there is a similar place God’s people enter called the “Even Though.” Even though you walk through the valley…. The even though is a place of trial and difficulty, not easily traversed by even the heartiest of souls. I am sure you have spent time there, but probably didn’t know its name.
Even though you’re struggling in a psychiatric hospital.
Even though you’re struggling in a marriage.
Even though your finances aren’t working.
Even though you’re sick and you wish you weren’t.
You have spent time in the even though, haven’t you?
Even though we walk that path, even though it can be a time of difficulty and desolation, the promise is that God will set a table before you. Even in the Even Though.
The greatest table that we’ll ever feast at is set in that stark land of the even though. I want to assure you of something. When I went into the even though, I didn’t look for a table, I looked for a way out. I scratched for a way out. I didn’t realize there would be times in life where God would cause me to lay in weakness. He had to nourish me in a new way, and he had to teach me that even in the valley there can be a table.
God wants us to learn to not be quick to look for the way out of tough days, but to look for the table. Look for the food and the nourishment and the life that you wouldn’t get any other way. It’s far from easy, but very important. When you’re at that table, the table set in the even though, you suddenly see there is a cup and that cup will begin to overflow.
I am learning that goodness and mercy follows me all the days of my life even when I drink from a cup in the even though.
I didn’t drink that cup on the Mount of Transfiguration. I didn’t drink that cup when everyone was celebrating me. I drank that cup when my life was upside down and I didn’t know if I would ever breathe another sane breath…and all of a sudden I drank a cup, and it was the promise of God.
Some of you are in the even though. Even though your marriage isn’t what you hoped it would be, even though money isn’t flowing the way you need it to, even though your daughter isn’t loving you, even though you’re sicker than you wish you were. You’re in the even though, and I wish you weren’t…but look for a table. It comes in the strangest times and the strangest places. It comes from people who love you and you never knew how much they loved you. It comes in the way you run to scripture and suddenly it nurtures you in ways it never did before, or a song you heard, or a sunset that you finally see as a gift from God and the countless ways you realize that there is a table in the even though where you learn that “your cup will overflow all the days of your life, even the next time you go to the even though.”
I used to think the only way I could meet God was in strength, in the good land, in the happy times, when everybody was celebrating me…but I have found that no, there is a table set before me in the land of the even though and while my enemies may be thinking that it proved that God doesn’t love me, this is the proof that he loves me, and you, with an everlasting love.
This article was transcribed from a presentation given an a recent seminar in Ashland, Ohio.
Terry Wardle is Professor Emeritus of Practical Theology at Ashland Theological Seminary, Founder of Healing Care, and President Emeritus of HCM International's Board of Directors. He is a frequent seminar and conference speaker, and the author of numerous books on spiritual formation and formational prayer. He has been married to Cheryl for more than 40 years, has three grown children and five grandchildren.