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)