When My Heart is Heavy, and the Days are Hard

Psalm 23 in the Letter H

The Lord is my Hope; I heed his hailing.
He grants me safe harbour;
he hushes my hurry;
he heals my hidden hurts.
He heads me in his direction,
over hills and hurdles and highways.

When my heart is heavy and the days are hard,
I hold on, hang on,
to your hand that holds me:
your hedge of protection, my haven from harm,
your Holy Spirit, my Highest Help.

You host me with your hearty harvest,
you hem in the horrid and hostile;
you will harmony and health
that makes me humble and whole.

You honor me with your presence
to hallow my every hour,
so I shall be at home in the house of Hope,
with heaven on the horizon.

A friend introduced me to this new way of meditating on Psalm 23 by re-imagining the psalm with a letter of the alphabet. In his paraphrase using the letter L, “The Lord is my Shepherd” became “The Lord is my Leader.” And “I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever” became “I will lodge with my Lord for limitless years.”

For a Lenten devotional guide created this year by my congregation, I wrote “Psalm 23 in the Letter H,” and one day I would love to see a whole series on Psalm 23, with one psalm focused on each letter of the alphabet. So far, I’m aware of seven paraphrases using different letters, and another friend says that she is working on the letter Q!

Below is the list of paraphrases so far, with just a few lines that I hope will encourage you to click through to the entire psalm. If I’m missing any, or if you’d like to write your own, please let me know, so I can add it to the list.

Psalm 23 in the Key of  C – James Matichuk

My Creator is caretaker and captain,
with him I crave nothing
At his command, I lay couched in clover,
he carries me to where calm currents run their course,
He cleanses and collects me—
my cowardly, crumbled soul.


Psalm 23 in the Letter D – Chris Wallace

Declarations of delight and desire do not dwindle for days,
and I definitively dwell with the Divine
for decades and decades of dawns!


Psalm 23 in the Letter G – April Yamasaki

Even though I grumble
and groan at the gloom of death,
I grasp your hand for you are with me.
You guard and ground and grow me.

You gather me in for the grand gala,
while others might glance and glare;
I glow in gleaming garments and golden garland;
my goblet overflows.


Psalm 23 in the Letter H – April Yamasaki

When my heart is heavy and the days are hard,
I hold on, hang on,
to your hand that holds me:
your hedge of protection, my haven from harm,
your Holy Spirit, my Highest Help.


Psalm 23 in El – Mel Sawatzky

He liberates my languishing soul
by leading me down His lane that’s laudable,
even though I limp through the lowlands of lingering lament.
I am Li-on- heart-ed for there is no lack of strength.


The Lord is My Provider – Phyllis Ramer

Your presence permeates my person.
Your parenting and protection provide for my well-being.
You prepare a party for me in the presence of my perpetrators.
You pour promises into my soul.


Psalm 23 in the Letter S – Carole Sparks

The Sovereign is my shepherd,
I am sufficiently supplied.
He settles me in a supple country side,
He escorts me beside silent streams,
He strengthens my soul.


Writing/Reflection Prompt: Choose a letter of the alphabet, and use it to write your own paraphrase of Psalm 23. Share it below, on your own blog, or somewhere else, and feel free to let me know so I can add it to my list.

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21 thoughts on “When My Heart is Heavy, and the Days are Hard

  1. April, thank you for this. This is a chaotic and busy time. I love Psalm 23 and believe it is so much more than comfort at a time of bereavement! “He hushes my hurry” “He heals my hidden hurts.” – thank you for bringing this scripture to life in new and life-giving ways.

    1. Definitely, Lisa. Psalm 23 offers much comfort in times of loss and confusion, whether from a death or some other reason. I’m glad that it continues to speak in new ways to us.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Sharon. One of the benefits of this kind of word play is exactly that it allows us to pause and reflect on the meaning of the text. It’s an exercise of listening deeply for God that is both personal and communal as it is shared with others.

  3. Very challenging and interesting, although I prefer to keep Scripture as close to the original as possible. Hard to change something we memorized in our childhood!
    Imagine my surprise to see a fellow critiquer, Mel, on the reply list!

    1. Mel was actually the one who started me on this, Mary. At one of the Fraser Valley Christian Writers potlucks, he shared his paraphrase of Psalm 23 using the letter L, and that was all the encouragement I needed to try it for myself.

  4. April, what a timely reflection on Psalm 23 as we near the end of Lent and begin the journey to the cross with our Savior. I enjoy word play, and I hope in the days to come I can try this with the letter “S.” If successful, I’ll share with you. Good to be connecting more often these days. You always add a sense of calm to my days.

    1. Thanks, Sherrey – I’m glad to add a sense of calm, especially when our world can sometimes seem chaotic! I’m pleased to see that you’re sorting things out with your new site and able to write more too. I’d love to see your Psalm 23 in S if it comes together for you….

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