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The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I 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 have anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows.
Surely goodness and lovingkindness
will follow me all the days of my life.
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
                     Psalm 23

The Scriptures use many words to describe our walk with God. “Belief” engages the intellect, “submission” involves the will, “obey” requires action from the body, but the word “TRUST” is all about the heart. Trials and difficulties magnify and expose the true inclinations of our hearts, and what I have seen in my own heart regarding TRUST — well, it hasn’t always made me proud. When you’re looking down the barrel of a chemotherapy bazooka aimed at your loved one, the temptation is to mutter, “God, do You really know what You’re doing here? Why have You led us to this place? What if You don’t show up this time to help us? Something bad might happen!”

The Good Shepherd leads us beside still waters, but also through shadowy valleys. Sheep may be sweet and wooly white as stuffed animals, but in reality they’re stubborn, fearful, easily spooked, and uncooperative. “No! I’m not following you down there! It looks scary!”  A good shepherd delights in earning the trust of his sheep, and he cares for them tenderly. He understands their propensity to fear and to run away. He sees the dangers that are near and far ahead, then leads the flock safely onward to green pastures. We have a Good Shepherd who is trustworthy in every sense of the word. He not only leads, but provides for every need on the journey.

I opened my copy of World Magazine awhile ago and discovered the obituary of a much admired campus pastor I knew from college. Steve Hayner lost his battle with aggressive pancreatic cancer last year. Intervarsity Press chose to honor his memory by publishing a small book of Caringbridge entries written by the Hayners. They titled it, “Joy in the Journey”. In one entry, Sharol Hayner writes:

At this time in my life, I read Psalm 23 differently. I wonder if the valley of the shadow of death is also where we are treated to an abundant meal even though surrounded by enemies. I wonder if it is in that same shadowed valley where the Shepherd offers rest in green pastures, beside still waters.
Perhaps we lack nothing, not in the idyllic destination, but in the place of darkness, pain and suffering where the Shepherd provides rest and healing. Steve and I are discovering that we truly lack nothing and are finding peaceful rest in the valley of pancreatic cancer and chemo.
The Shepherd is so faithful.
We are grateful.

These are sheep who have learned to completely trust the Shepherd. They find rest in the midst of troubles because they trust Him. He is the Good Shepherd who will never forsake the beloved sheep entrusted to His care.

Lord, give us hearts that will trust You more fully in the valley of leukemia and chemotherapy. Grant us the peaceful rest that comes from trusting You completely.
Amen

This is the blessed life —
not anxious to see far in front,
nor careful about the next step,
not eager to choose the path,
nor weighted with the heavy responsibilities of the future,
but quietly following behind the Shepherd,
one step at a time.
       Streams in the Desert, 1/14 entry