Psalm 23- How Nigerian Christians Taught Me To Hold Onto Jesus
‘Jesu Bambalela, Bambalela….Hold Onto Jesus, Hold On’
It is probably one of the catchiest songs I have ever heard. One of those songs that is constantly stuck in your head…the kind you catch yourself humming at multiple points during the day.
This is a song known by Christians throughout Nigeria (and in other African countries as well). The lyrics are simple: ‘Jesu Bambalela, Bambalela….Hold Onto Jesus, Hold On.’
As I caught myself humming the song for the 100th time, I thought about the unique phrase: Hold Onto Jesus. It’s not a term we use a lot here in America. Yet, my fellow travelers (from other countries) would use the phrase too, asking Nigerian Christians ‘How do you hold onto Jesus despite the persecution?’
What did it mean to hold onto Jesus? Little did I know that God was going to use a passage of scripture I had heard more times than I could count, to teach me that lesson:
1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
It’s the passage that is almost always recited at funeral scenes in the movies. It’s the passage that many of us had to memorize in Sunday school as kids. And to me, it had become almost clich�- a verse I really didn’t think about much, since it was so common. Even most non-Christians I know are familiar with it.
So needless to say, I was a bit surprised when so many of the Christians I spoke to in Nigeria cited it as their favorite passage.
The widow of a Christian senator, who had been murdered while attending a mass funeral of Boko Haram victims, told me it was that passage that reminded her of God’s faithfulness, despite the persecution. It was the way that she remembered to hold onto Jesus, no matter what happened, because He would guide her through the difficult time she was facing.
A young girl who had just been injured by a church attack stated that she found comfort in this passage as well. She knew that Jesus was there to hold onto, even during a time when she felt completely hopeless.
My fellow travelers kept hearing this verse mentioned as well. The passage began to take on a new significance to each of us…we even focused on it two different days in our morning devotions.
I found it odd that God continued to bring that passage up in my life. When I got back, a friend would mention how that passage had touched them or it came up in my personal devotions at night. And one day my staff at work took a day to dwell on this passage.
It has a new significance to me- I am reminded of the dedicated believers in Nigeria who find comfort in this passage as they strive to hold onto Jesus. After encountering these believers and this passage, I was drawn to write this poem:
A widow with six children,
Once said to me,
God doesn’t give you what you want,
But gives you what you need
How can I live a life,
Where I truly want not,
A life of faith merely satisfied,
By Your staff and Your rod.
This passage speaks to those,
Who have walked through death’s valley,
Yet they hold onto Jesus,
And continue to give him glory.
Why don’t I trust You Shepherd?
That You lead me on the right path,
That each door I knock on, which closes,
Is part of the Journey, not Your wrath
In the time of waiting,
When You make me lie in green pastures,
You’ve molded me and taught me more,
Than a thousand sermons from pastors
And the day will come,
When You prepare for us a feast,
Amidst the trials and tribulations,
Which have become our enemies
In that time You will bless us,
And anoint our heads with oil,
That in our lives, You’ll overflow
Your goodness and love replacing turmoil
We will dwell with You forever!
No longer will there be strife,
For now may I trust You as the persecuted do,
To lead me on this path called life.