Psalm 23 (ESV)
1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. 3 He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, 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 goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Rutgers 23, Army 20 (October 16, 2010)
For Rutgers defensive tackle Eric LeGrand, it was a routine play that he had made countless times before. With 5:10 left in the fourth quarter, LeGrand dashed down the field at New Meadowlands Stadium (now MetLife Stadium) in pursuit of Army kick returner Malcom Brown. He then made the biggest mistake of his football career. He lowered his head just before making contact.
The hit was violent—so violent that it broke Brown’s collarbone. But the first thing everyone noticed was the way LeGrand’s body stiffened as he fell to the ground. He was paralyzed below the neck and was struggling to breathe.
LeGrand was rushed to Hackensack University Medical Center where he had emergency surgery and spent the night in the intensive care unit. He had fractured his C3 and C4 vertebrae. The doctors delivered the devastating news to LeGrand’s mother. He had broken his neck and would never walk again.
Over the course of the next several days, LeGrand had visitors that included his Aunt Cheryl and Uncle Ariel. On one occasion, Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano was also there and joined in as they gathered around his bed and prayed for a miracle. And then his aunt asked LeGrand if she could read Psalm 23 to him.
“I could barely move my head, so I was nearly immobilized,” he recalled. “I needed hope during a time of despair. She opened her Bible and read these centuries-old words, which soothed my troubled soul.”
The LORD is my shepherd. I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
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.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
“Those sentences lifted my spirits, especially the part about walking through the darkest valley,” LeGrand wrote. “That’s where I was—the darkest valley. It didn’t get any darker, if you asked me. But the psalmist reminded me that the Lord was with me and his rod and his staff comforted me.”
The next several weeks were difficult, but eventually LeGrand was able to breathe without a ventilator and regain some motion in his shoulders. He has written a book about the experience and continues to inspire audiences with his courageous testimony of faith. On July 11, 2012, he received the Jimmy V Perseverance Award at the ESPYS.
And when his soul is troubled, he returns to that powerful Old Testament passage from David and is emboldened to hope for the impossible.
“I believe I will walk again. I do,” LeGrand boldly declared a year after his accident. “When that happens, I already know what I'm going to do. I'll go to Giants Stadium and find the exact spot in the field where I went down. I'll lie there for a second. And then I'll get up on my own power and walk away.”
Dear Lord, we thank You for the encouraging words in the Bible. We thank You for the comfort that they bring us when we are down. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.