My brother, a disabled veteran, owns a dog grooming business. When the decision came to close all non-essential businesses, this was the end of his source of income for weeks. Then there was a husband and father of three children laid off from his job because the company he worked for several years had to cut its budget. How would he feed his family or pay his bills? And what about the single mother of two children, quarantined from her family and fighting to live after being diagnosed with COVID-19. I can personally recall the anguish I felt when some of my family members turned against me because of an untrue statement made by another family member.
These are dark places to be for anyone, and no doubt, they may shake your confidence and faith. In fact, these situations can be predators to your faith. What will be your reaction? Fear? Depression? Anger? thoughts of suicide? turning to drugs or alcohol? In these challenging times, when the chips are down and the fly in the ointment is not just one but several, it takes strength, endurance, and faith in God to believe there is a loving and tender solution to these hardships.
The world offers many substitutes for faith: human philosophy, religion, world leadership, a code of conduct, ad infinitum. Most of these substitutes are utterly contrary to what the Bible expresses. We live in a most uncertain environment. Unexpected and sudden disaster, change, and distress can occur at any moment. It is in times like these we need a reminder that we have a “Good Shepherd” who is always nearby.
The heart of the Shepherd is reflected in the 23rd Psalm. It was written by David, the shepherd boy who later in his life was chosen by God to be King of Israel (the “Shepherd King”). When David wrote this Psalm, he had been exiled from his people. He wandered from place to place in constant fear for his life as Saul was determined to kill him. In this poetic Psalm, David brilliantly crafts a vision of having complete confidence in The Good Shepherd who cares for his sheep. The first three verses highlight the nature of the Shepherd’s heart.
The Lord Is My Shepherd:
In the very first verse, David expresses his faith in the Shepherd’s ability to take care of him. As imperfect as we are, we still have a human tendency to believe we can solve the problems that are part of the storms of life, on our own merits and determination. However, when you personalize the shepherd as “my” shepherd, you express an expectation that the Shepherd will take care of you at all times.
I Shall Not Want:
A shepherd loves his flock. He will go to every end to supply them with the finest grazing, ample winter feed, clean water, shelter from storms, protection from enemies, diseases, parasites, and predators. I shall not want does not mean you will never experience lack or need; it means you have unshakable belief that as your Shepherd, He will meet the needs you have in the way that works best for the welfare of you and your family.
He Makes Me to Lie Down in Green Pastures:
The nearby presence of the shepherd calms his sheep. You can learn to develop an inner peace free of fear, tension, anxiety and aggravation when stuff happens, or something bugs you. It does not mean these emotions will not arise, but you have a belief and trust that your shepherd is standing guard. So many of us have trouble sleeping. There are multiple causes of this. However, it is possible to eliminate worry and fear as ingredients that feed sleeplessness. When your mind is calm, sleep will come more easily and quickly.
For those of you who have heard a child recite this simple prayer spoken in innocence, you recognize it reflects child-like inner peace.
“Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord, my soul, to keep
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord, my soul, to take.”*
The child recites this prayer with total belief that no matter what happens, even while he is sleeping, God will take care of him/her. He/she trusts that “God’s got me.”
The shepherd is fully aware that all kinds of dangers could be lurking for the sheep who wander outside of his care. They become food for other animals, diseased, injured, lost, or killed. These realities are the same in the human journey of life. When you remove yourself from the care of the Good Shepherd, you will become overwhelmed by trials, distresses, dilemmas, finances, illnesses, disappointments and hurts.
Place yourself solidly under the Shepherd’s care. He is never surprised by anything that happens. However, He does have a plan, and microwave solutions are not His style. But if you wait patiently/expectantly for His answer, you will be able to grasp that inner awareness of His presence and land in His safety net every time.
*Original version: Thomas Fleet Primer (1737)
I recently rented a movie whose characters, with few exceptions, were portrayed by mostly young and unknown actors. Although the film was very lengthy and the language used by a few of the characters could have stood some bleach, I enjoyed it.
After thinking about the core of the movie, I realized the subject of change was woven throughout with great creativity. Even more fascinating was how the story alluded to the differences in the way older versus younger generations handle change. Ultimately, at some time during their journey, each of the characters was required to make life-saving adjustments and at lightning speed.
Coming closer to everyday reality, the circumstances that currently exist will force each of us to adjust. Let’s begin with one of the technological changes. The word “virtual” has become a household word. It is something that can be done or seen using a computer without going anywhere except in the space that works for you.
Never used a computer? Well, now is the time to learn. Eighty years old or three years old, it does not matter. If you want to avoid becoming extinct, you will adapt. Spiritual/church, eating, work, shopping, healthcare, entertainment, family gatherings, proms, graduations, the list of virtual reality has come full circle and will control many aspects of our lives forever. “Old school” solutions will still exist, but for many of you, using a computer or other “techie” device will require drastic changes in your thinking and overcoming fear of technology.
The next change is our current attire. Recently my brother sent me a text picture of the “Plague Doctor” wearing his 17th-century garments. His isolation-like garb was a reminder, “there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9) With the belief that his garments would protect him from bad air or infection, his “costume” included leggings, gloves, boots, hat, mask, and an over-clothing covering. (n.wikipedia.org › wiki › Plague_doctor_costume).
So, when we step outside in our “new normal attire,” remember it is an adaptive rehash and reminds us that we should not feel uncomfortable. It serves as our history book and puts us on notice we may be wearing this look for a while.
As we begin to re-open our economy, consider how the children of Israel whined and complained when they were in the wilderness about the changes in eating after they were delivered from slavery. God provided more than enough for them to eat in the form of coriander seed cakes known as “manna.” But like spoiled children, they sulked because it was not meat. They began looking back to Egypt, a place where they had been slaves but still had meat and fish. Needless to say, their weeping and crying angered their leader, Moses. This story concludes with the children of Israel being given the meat they craved, but some shocking consequences followed their ill-tempered behavior.
The story of Lot and his family, who escaped from certain disaster in a corrupt city, highlights the point of not returning to the past. Lot’s rescuers specifically warned him to “flee and not look back.” Lot’s wife did not follow her husband and turned back to look at the unhealthy place where they had settled. Her disobedient action was a tragic mistake. She immediately became a “pillar of salt.” This story is a major object lesson on making moving forward a priority. We may not be turned into pillars of salt, but complaining about what was past will not yield positive outcomes.
The current scenario has radically transformed our lives. When businesses re-open, they will find they must alter, shift or replace their pre-pandemic way of operating their restaurants, nail salons, hair salons, barbershops, movie theatres, other forms of entertainment, etc. We cannot go back to where we were--not ever.
Be kind to yourself and others, especially since you had no control over what happened throughout the world. Take a moment to consider the words you speak before you say them. Express gratitude for:
Like the movie characters mentioned earlier, life-saving flexibility is necessary during this changing time. It will require discipline and courage not to look back unless looking back can be used to move you forward.
If you check any bookstore, online or retail, you will find there are no shortages of books on motivation, inspiration, wisdom, or happiness. The one common theme in all of them is their focus on guiding you toward a victorious life journey. Like preparing a special food dish, they emphasize not only the use of the correct ingredients but also the proper portions.
I remember trying a recipe for vegetarian lasagna several years ago. I ended up with something that tasted like soft cement covered in melted cheese. It was obvious I had used the wrong stuff somewhere in my preparation.
Given the variety of self-help books, the author’s list of emotional targets seems to be different for each market. They realize there are different personal appeals to readers. I noticed that there was a common emphasis on life events that can cause a downward emotional spiral. Reactions such as stress, change, fear, living in the past, anger, unforgiveness, jealousy, and low self-worth (lack of love for self) seemed to top the list of triggered responses.
As I perused some of these books, I noticed a common root among these unsettling feelings. Whether the experience causing the downward spiral was like the current global situation (which has caused the release of an assortment of emotions) or some other unpredicted happening, eliminating their effect on you requires an inward adjustment. Not only is this an essential ingredient for any change, but the correct combination must be applied for a lasting modification to happen.
Change on the outside tends to be short-range and is dependent upon tangible and visual objects. Consistent, extended change requires personal time, discipline, determination, patience, and the will not to give up, even when we make one step forward and two backward. The process begins with:
Biblically speaking, faith is a shield. It eliminates the effects of a fiery-like arrow designed to inflict great damage on anything it hits. So, when your faith encounters an adverse circumstance, it goes into action to overcome the doubt that would hinder the vast possibilities within your remarkable life journey.
Active faith operates on all cylinders when the spirit of a person adjusts to the living and merciful presence of a loving God. It is the trusted reliance that there is someone always working to ensure our life success without us knowing or having all the answers to why. This adds up to the perfect recipe for love, which extends far beyond the pages of any motivational book.