“Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life.”
When Cassie Worley’s father, the well-known, beloved psychiatrist Dr. Charles Steck, died, one of the several scripture passages Cassie and her brothers selected for the service was Psalm 23.
Cassie told me that when she and her family were evacuated to Mobile following Katrina this psalm had become a very significant source of sustenance and strength. Displaced, far from home for many months, facing a multitude of uncertainties, flooded with a turbulence of emotion, she turned to it several times a day, reciting it from memory. For some reason, while in Mobile, there was one word in particular which she would accent with unusual power and emphasis: Surely. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. Surely! Bold, underscored, and with an exclamation mark! As if to say to God, “I am counting on this! Remember, you have promised!” Surely!
I am reminded of the words of Isaiah, “Surely it is God who saves me; I will trust in him and not be afraid…” I am reminded of the words of the hymns, “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine,” and “Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place.” I think of the little-known Christian “Doctrine of Assurance” which promises us that we can indeed be assured of God’s eternal love and care. Not maybe. Not if only. Not possibly. Surely.
That’s what Eastertide, the 50 days following the death and resurrection of Jesus, are about. More than a dozen times recorded in scripture the brokenhearted disciples of Jesus would experience his living presence among them, his indomitable life within them, his unconquerable love for them, giving them confidence that they need not live in fear of the future, for surely he was alive, and surely he was with them, and surely they were not alone.
May those of us who are also living in the aftermath of a loss, a death, a devastating storm, our broken hearts still mending, be filled with the same confidence in God’s unfailing goodness and mercy. May this word take on special power and unusual emphasis. In your times of doubt and fear, let it be in your heart and on your lips–surely!