As I drove to the store today, nothing felt right. All I could think about was that this is not the way it’s supposed to be. There is an eerie feeling of stillness to the world and an unnatural way of moving about in the world right now. We have to walk and stand away from others as if they have cooties. We avoid speaking or sometimes even making eye contact as we encounter someone walking past us. It goes against everything we are, especially if you are an extrovert.
As people, we need community to thrive, we need hugs and embraces. We need to shake hands in solidarity or feel a comforting arm around our shoulders. We are made for touch and for community, for meaningful conversation with others, for being together to celebrate a marriage or a birth or standing beside someone as they’re grieving.
This unusual time we are enduring right now can leave us feeling anxious and in need of the things that are lacking. Whether it is the need of companionship, comfort from a friend, a steady paycheck, or simply a roll of toilet paper, we are longing for provision and peace.
Many of us have heard Psalm 23 many times, usually as a consoling scripture, but I want us to see it with fresh eyes as we read the Contemporary English Version:
You, Lord, are my shepherd. I will never be in need. You let me rest in fields of green grass. You lead me to streams of peaceful water, and you refresh my life. You are true to your name, and you lead me along the right paths. I may walk through valleys as dark as death, but I won’t be afraid. You are with me, and your shepherd’s staff makes me feel safe. You treat me to a feast, while my enemies watch. You honor me as your guest, and you fill my cup until it overflows. Your kindness and love will always be with me each day of my life, and I will live forever in your house, Lord.” Psalm 23 CEV
In light of our current circumstances, I found a whole new depth to this Scripture. It reminded me that God is our Shepherd–He is the one who looks out for us, takes care of us, provides for us. Just like a shepherd with his sheep, God tenderly cares for us and meets our every need.
When we picture sheep in a pasture, we often think of a huge field of bright green grass where they roam. But in Israel, the land was often quite rocky with occasional tufts of grass. When the sheep went to graze, they couldn’t see very far, just what was in front of them. But the shepherd could see the whole land and knew it well, he could lead the sheep to where the best grass was for their sustenance and nourishment.
Sheep are creatures that live moment by moment, focused on what is in front of them. That sounds a lot like how we are having to live right now, taking each day moment by moment. To survive, the sheep had to trust the shepherd to lead them safely to the next tuft of grass and provide all that they need each day. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, does the very same thing for us.
Right now, you might be feeling adrift. These are dark and difficult times we are facing together. It can feel like a dark valley that we are journeying. There are days that seem like we are just wandering about like sheep not knowing when this will end, feeling anxious and like there’s no end in sight. It’s hard to know what we are supposed to be doing other than staying away from one another.
The best thing we can do right now is to listen for the voice of the Shepherd. He’s the one who sees the big picture, who knows what we need to nourish our body and our spirit, and will guide us and lead us through this dark valley. He knows where to find the peaceful streams in what feels like a desert. He knows exactly what we need and how to lead us to it.
His guiding staff will protect us and keep us safe and on the right path. He will be our light when we can no longer see through the darkness. He’s walking us through this. Keep walking, He’s right beside you. He is faithful to provide exactly what you need, when you need it. Jesus, our loving Shepherd, provides in abundance as we place our trust in Him and gives us what we need to refresh our spirit through His ever-present kindness and love. He will lead you through the valley to fields of green and peaceful streams that will soothe your soul. Lean into Him, trust Him to guide you, comfort and protect you, and provide for all you need.