Psalms 23

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside still waters.  He restores my soul.  He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.  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.  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Psalms 23:1-6

It was definitely a God “thump.”  That is what I affectionately call an obvious nudge from God to get my attention.   Psalms 23.  I’d heard it three times over the past week.  I read it in my devotion, it was the key scripture at the IF Gathering I attended over the weekend, and it was referenced in the final session of the book study I just completed.  Over the years, I’ve heard Psalms 23 numerous times, but it never resonated with me in the way it did this last week.  I knew I had to grab ahold of it….meditate on it….study it….and pass it along to all of you!

Psalms is placed midway through the Bible, written in part by David. It is an expansive collection of songs and prayers that expresses what I would call the heart of humanity.  There are sins confessed, fears revealed, requests for help, praise and worship….all wrapped up in one.  Psalms underscores the highs and lows of our deepest human experiences, both joyful and sorrowful. 

David, having been a shepherd in his youth, uses the imagery of the shepherd and his flock in Psalms 23 to convey the flock-like status that we have as Christians under the care of the Lord.  God faithfully tends to His people….offering protection, guidance and care at all times, just as a shepherd would.  David knew that well.  Even in the face of deep struggle and adversity, David demonstrated a faith solidified in God.  The ups and downs he faced helped shape and deepen his relationship and trust with God.  David discloses his raw humanity throughout the Psalms with periods of joy, but also doubts and fears.  I love that.  It’s authentic. I think if you could talk with David face-to-face today, he would probably agree that trusting God at all times is easier said than done.  In the midst of trials, laying our trust at the feet of God can be difficult!  Life circumstances can be terrifying at times.  One look at the world around you – wherever you are and in whatever stage you are in – and you will find relational stress, financial uncertainty, identity crises, mental health struggles, and the sobering realization that death eventually knocks at everyone’s door.  Despite it ALL, we cannot minimize the weight of the good news because of temporary circumstances.  Human expectations that are placed on God will not always match His promises given to us.  When human passions replace our reliance on God, we are living without faith.  And, a faithless world is a shepherd-less world.   Not realizing this will leave us with unmet beliefs, feeling empty and hopeless.  Instead, we must place ourselves daily in the care of the Great Shepherd. 

Psalms 23 alludes to the natural rhythms of life as a series of peaks and valleys.  We will all experience periods of mountain tops and valleys….highs and lows that will require us to respond correctly.  I’m in the middle of reading a book on optimal fitness.  It talks a lot about “neutral” thinking.  If you can keep your mind neutral in response to the rumble strips of life that arise, it will keep you moving forward in your health journey without derailing progress.  This concept immediately reminded me of Psalms 23.  If I keep my focus on God, regardless of life’s rumble strips – trusting him entirely – I will remain in a place of peace, eventually reaching the destination the Lord has for me.  Worry has no part in neutral thinking.  Spiritual rest begins in our soul by entrusting the process completely to our Creator. 

Without spiritual rest and contentment, we fall victim to the sickness I’m convinced is ailing this generation…. burnout and spiritual depression.   As a member of this generation, I can tell you that it is very real.  The single most important thing that I’ve learned through it is to relinquish all attempts at control over my circumstances.  Leave control to God, and God alone.  Aging seems to be a great realizer of this truth!  Believing you have control over your circumstances is a complete illusion.  Once we realize that, we can place our trust in God at all times….both the peaks and the valleys.  People will fail us and friends may leave us, but God does not.  As a person who chronically battles wanting things to be ordered and controlled….this is such a mental relief.  It gives me the freedom to give up control, and know that God has it handled. 

Absorbing the full magnitude of Psalms 23 immediately lifted the world off my shoulders and gave me a “peace beyond understanding” this past week. (Philippians 4:6). As I sit here today, I am wearing a leather bracelet that says “I have all I need. Psalm 23.”  It is a daily reminder for me that God is all I need.   

How about you? Have you handed over your trust fully to the Great Shepherd?

xo Carre

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