In the last verse of Psalm 23, David declares, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life …” (v. 6). He’s reminding himself of the truth that our Shepherd is always behind us, weaving goodness and mercy into our misery and mess. We’re accustomed to talking about the importance of us following Jesus, but equally important is that he follows us.
The question is, “How far back there is he?” Sometimes, you can see how he took a bad thing and used it for good. That relationship ended, but it freed you up for another one. You didn’t get the job, but that freed you up for a better one. Or maybe it’s more serious. Your struggle with cancer gave you a new perspective on life. Infertility taught you humility and set you up for the blessing of adoption.
But let’s be honest—there are some chapters in life that you look back on years later and still can’t see how any good came from that. Yet David remains absolutely confident that even in the most painful, confusing chapters of his life, goodness and mercy are following him.
The arc of God’s goodness—that is, the time it takes for us to see that goodness, for it to work itself out—is often longer than we wish, but it’s always there, always at work. Nothing is outside our Shepherd’s control, and not one second of our waiting, our pain, or our suffering is wasted.
The arc of God’s goodness—that is, the time it takes for us to see that goodness, for it to work itself out—is often longer than we wish, but it’s always there, always at work.
Here’s how Psalm 23 teaches us how to wait:
1. Wait Patiently
God is always good, but the arc of his goodness is longer than we typically expect. Sometimes, we don’t see the resolution until far in the future. Sometimes, we have to stick around to the very end to see that goodness and mercy really have been following us all the days of our lives. And for many of us, we won’t see it this side of the resurrection.
2. Wait Confidently
Scripture presents God as in control of everything—the wind, earthquakes, tsunamis, the flight of a sparrow, the blooming of a lily, the hairs on your head, good kings, wicked kings, your thoughts, my thoughts, angels, demons, even Satan himself. All of it is under the providence of God.
Even the ways in which you, personally, have messed things up. (Yes, this begins to hurt my head.) If you’re surrendered to God, he uses even those things, providentially, as part of his good work in your life. So we can wait confidently, knowing that he has all things under his control.
3. Wait Intimately
A wet sponge, when wrung out, will release its water. But a dry sponge is just that—dry. You can squeeze it all you want, but you won’t get anything out of it.
When we are squeezed by life, whatever is inside of us comes out. For the people of God, that should be God—his joy, confidence, integrity, forgiveness. I’ve seen this in the lives of some brothers and sisters in the church. It’s incredibly humbling and beautiful and, frankly, miraculous. How is it even possible? It’s because God’s people feast upon him in their waiting. If we nurse disbelief, anger, and self-pity in our waiting, that’s what will come out of us when life squeezes us. But if we soak in God’s promises, when life cuts us, we will bleed God’s Word.
4. Wait Expectantly
You may not get to see the culmination of goodness in your lifetime, but you might get to see glimpses of it. God is a good God who loves to bless people. Psalm 27:13 says, “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living!” (ESV). In other words, his goodness is in the now, not just in the sweet by and by. By God’s grace, we wait expectantly, asking him to pour out his goodness now in the land of the living.
Do you need confidence like David’s? Ask God to give to you. No one can teach it to you. This is something only the Holy Spirit can teach by opening the eyes of your heart to his goodness, to who he is.