Don’t you want to know that everything will turn out well tomorrow, next week, next year? I do.
But we don’t know. So the tense hours of the night drag on.
I listened to a talk by John Eldridge from his series, “The Four Streams.” He said the Lord does not tell us the future because He wants us to draw closer to Him; He wants intimacy with us.
If we knew the terrain ahead, we might rush off into it or cringe away from it. Not knowing means we must draw near to the One who knows.
A friend gave me a copy of W. Phillip Keller’s book, “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23.” Keller spent years shepherding sheep in Africa, and he reflects on God our Good Shepherd given what he knows firsthand about the rigors of shepherding. My heart soaks up his reflections like the dry winter ground outside my window soaks up spring rains.
He teaches that sheep are so helpless that the attentiveness of a good shepherd compares to the care of a mother for a small child. He describes the daily intimate contact between the sheep and the shepherd, who must frequently even run his hands over each sheep checking for parasites or injuries.
The Lord, Keller says, takes care of each of us this way.
I found this series of pictures that helps me understand that Phillip Keller teaches the truth about shepherds.
Notice in the picture above the hand of the shepherd holding food for his sheep. He could have poured it on the ground for them, but he chose this intimate way of feeding. He cares for these sheep.
Other photos in the series show the shepherd smiling and caressing his sheep; always they crowd as close to him as they can.
Keller reminds me that David, who wrote this psalm, also spent years shepherding; he chose this metaphor not for poetic reasons, but because of the truth in it.
I feel urged now when anxiety tightens its grip on me, to think of Jesus my Shepherd standing in a craggy landscape, much like the mountains surrounding the shepherd in the picture above, and to see myself as a sheep, leaning against his leg. His hand reaches down to touch my head while He surveys the terrain.
Though the work of caring for sheep has roughened His hands, He touches my head with tenderness. I understand that if trust Him, this hand will lead me to sustenance (green pastures) and to refreshment (still waters).
This hand will guide me in the right way (paths of righteousness) and through danger (the valley of the shadow of death).
This hand will defend me from my enemies (your rod and your staff comfort me).
How do I know all this? This hand has born nails for me (the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep – John 10).
My Shepherd’s beautiful life – the God-life of crafting both stars and puppies, and the man-life of perfect love, wisdom, and obedience – He gave over to blood, mud, shame, and ruin for me.
How can I honor such a shepherd?
I see I must, with His help, lay aside anxiety and chose trust. He knows the paths through these craggy mountains of uncertainty, and I can seek His reassuring hand all along the way.
Surely He has earned it.
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. (Psalm 23)
Photo Credits: fotothek_df_ps_0001957, 0001952_landschaften__hc3bcgellandschaften_-_gebirgslandschaften__.jpg