When I first heard Psalm 23, I had an image of a utopic situation where our Good Shepherd leads us uninterrupted through life. As His sons and daughters, we just allow Him to restore our souls and lead us. What a beautiful image. I used to love my interpretation of this scripture. Then I faced a major storm that shook me to my core. I received this very scripture as an encouragement, and I couldn't understand the jewels in it. Where is the Good Shepherd? Where are the green pastures and still waters? How can He possibly restore my soul in this less than ideal environment?
Then the wisdom came from Psalm 23:4:
Even when I walk through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me (NLT).
No matter how dark it is, we never have to be afraid. God is always with us. That's the key! When God is with us, we can walk "through" anything and not fear what is going on. We have to learn how to interpret hard times from God's perspective and not our own. When things get tough, our first reaction is to internalize the problem. We wonder, "What did I do wrong?" Sometimes we haven't done anything. The darkness is a transitional place. It is not meant to be a place where we camp out. There are lessons we will learn that bring us into a deeper understanding of God.
Here are a few lessons we will learn about our Good Shepherd:
We learn His nature
He is not a Good Shepherd in theory. He leads us as we allow Him to by way of Holy Spirit. We see Him in action as He shows us in every day moments His commitment to us in good times and hard places.
We Learn the Extent of His Love
It is one thing to say God is love. It is another to feel His love through tears and brokenness. If you think back to your darkest places and see how God showed up, it's an experience that is hard to describe. You just know He is supporting you. We see His love in the ways we need at the perfect moments.
We Learn His consistency
When has God forsaken you? He never has nor will. God may not answer according to what we want though. He is God and makes decisions from perfection. He has an eternal perspective that goes beyond our momentary discomfort.
What about this rod and staff? Sounds scary huh. How is that comforting? Our Shepherd disciplines us and corrects us on the journey. He also protects us. It means we don't have to wander around trying to figure things out. He guides us as only He can.
You may or may not be facing a dark night of the soul. Whether you are (or are not), this Scripture reminds us of promises we can count on daily. Your Good Shepherd is with you.
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