“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” Psalm 23:1-3 (NKJV)
These opening lines from King David’s poem that came to be known as Psalm 23 have comforted me from the earliest days I can remember being a follower of Christ. And given that this is one of the most recognizable passages in the Bible, it must have comforted many others before me. Even my prodigal younger daughter has found solace in these words during her prolonged period of being away from the faith.
And here’s one really cool thing (among many) of being a sheep belonging to the Great Shepherd: maybe one of the reasons I (and many of us) have been comforted by these words is because I have actually experienced Him restoring my soul.
I’m going to let you in on a deep theological secret: life is hard. Fortunately, there are some days that are the best day ever, but sprinkled all throughout them are other kinds of days.
For me, one thing that has delivered more than its fair share of hard days in my life is my secular vocation. God has made me good at it and has given me the endurance to continue running this marathon. One role I had took me to NYC regularly for almost 3 years, leading an exhausting engagement for a difficult, unreasonable, and ungrateful client while working for an equally difficult, unreasonable, and ungrateful employer. Yet in the midst of drudging through that valley of the shadow of death (the job, not NYC itself), there were many times when I felt my Shepherd making me lie down in green pastures and leading me beside still waters so He could restore my soul.
For example, I spent countless hours on weekends wandering through the ever-amazing Central Park (which should be renamed to Giant Park with Lakes and Woods and a Little Castle–OK, maybe that doesn’t quite roll off the tongue as well). He also led me to the green pastures and still waters of 2 different but spectacular locations of the New York Botanic Gardens (one in the Bronx and the other in Brooklyn), not to mention the (not to be outdone by Manhattan) Prospect Park in Brooklyn.
He restored my soul from the desert wasteland of exhaustion in these green pastures and beside those still waters more times than I can count.
Another of many cool things about the Good Shepherd is that He offers this to all of us.
One thing that’s probably worth pointing out is that by referring to God as our Shepherd, we are at the same time comparing ourselves to sheep. This is not a compliment. Sheep are really dumb and stubborn. They can get themselves into a bind fairly easily through their own stupidity. Hmm, can’t think why David–or Jesus, for that matter–would compare us to sheep….
But thanks to God’s infinite grace, He will still lead us to green pastures and beside still waters, even when we have wandered into the valley of the shadow of death because of our own stupidity.
I, for one, am very thankful for that.
So no matter what has you wandering in the desert or drudging through the valley of the shadow of death, all you have to do is call upon the name of our Good Shepherd.
He will restore your soul.