So much strength to resist ! Read Bonhoeffer in critical times (5)

Memorial and Place of Encounter Bonhoeffer-Haus Berlin


Ways with us: „through the lush pastures and through the dark valley“ (Psalm 23)



God’s ways are the ways that he has tread before and that we are to walk with him now. God does not allow us to walk a path that he has not walked before and on which he would not precede us. It is the way cleared by God and protected by God on which he calls us. This is truly His way …

With God, one does not just mark time but one walks along a path. Either one moves ahead or one is not with God. God knows the entire way; we only know the next step and the final goal. There is no standing still; every day, every hour, one progresses. The life of whoever has set his foot on this path has become a wandering. He walks through the lush pastures and through the dark valley, but the Lord will always lead him on the right path (Psalm 23) and “he will not let your foot be moved” (Psalm 121:3).

The entire gospel message of salvation can be called simply “the way” (Acts 19:9; 22:4; 24:14) or the “way of God” (Acts 18:25, 26). In this way it becomes clear that the gospel and faith are not a timeless idea but an action of God and of the human being in history.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Meditation on Psalm 119 (Vers 3), 1939/1940, DBW English Version, volume 15, 504.


Dietrich Bonhoeffer particularly valued Psalm 119. It is the longest psalm, artistically arranged the letters at the beginning of the verse in the order of the Hebrew alphabet. The Torah as the ‚path of perfection‘ revealed by God contradicts the reality of life with the experiences of injustice, lies, greed, violence, wickedness, need, grief, misery and shame, but also standstill where it should go. In his trust, the praying person hides in the protective castle of the Torah, the unshakable world order. In the praying meditation, the Torah becomes the ‚gospel‘, the good news of the presence of God and the joy of life.

Psalm 23 describes the protective presence of God and joy of life with the metaphor of the good shepherd who accompanies us through the lush pastures and the Death Shadow Gorge and the generous host who sets the table for us in the face of the enemy (I associate it with specific conflicts, fears, threats).

Literatur: Erich Zenger, Stuttgarter Psalter. Mit Einleitungen und Kurzkommentaren, Katholisches Bibelwerk Stuttgart, 2005

We cannot go the usual ways in existential crises. If we only look at our own path, we will not find our way out of need. The different, even contradictory directions, that are offered to us from all sides confuse us. What can we trust?

Museums are already beginning to collect memorabilia from the time of the Corona crisis – for later. Why don’t we – for now – look for the memorabilia of our trust that have guided us through previous crises? In this way, we can check – seen from today – whether and how they helped us. Can they help us also now? Biblical stories, prayers and confessions are such memorabilia. Dietrich Bonhoeffer is convinced that it is not only our way that matters, but God’s way with us. God takes us into the future. This raises our view beyond the next steps and now allows us to pray, act, be responsible and concrete in the implementation of the principles of a fairer and more solidary society.

„God’s ways are the ways that he has tread before and that we are to walk with him now.“

Christ, shepherd of your people,

live with us, share with us

the Father’s word

that speaks to us in our lives.

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