Outrageous Fortunes and Comforting Providence

There are good days. And there are bad days. And then there are days where the circumstances of one's life become so unpredictable that one wonders if the guiding hand of God can ever be present in the seemingly incongruent contingencies of one's history.

To this, Rabbi Edward Feld's book on the Psalms, Joy, Despair, Hope, provides some very helpful guideposts. In a commentary on the famous Psalm 23,  much is made of the stanzas that move very quickly from "green pastures" (v2) to the "valley of the shadow of death" (v4). Feld here speaks of being "buffeted" or struck around, both by the drastic changes in circumstance, and by the inclusion of the vision of the crook and staff.

However, it is the crook and staff that becomes the key to finding solace to the transition from pasture to valley. In Feld's words, the "push and pull of everyday existence [and the great randomness therein]", becomes part and parcel of God's program of instruction. Far from being mere chance, being struck by the seeming randomness of life's contingencies when one remains in the care of God, are for Feld, "an indication of God's accompanying presence and support".

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