“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.” Psalm 23:1 (ESV)
I'm thankful I'm not the author and finisher of my faith story.
I never would have had the courage to write my story with the twists and turns it has taken. I have walked through seasons of devastation beyond what I thought I could survive. But I have also been incredibly blessed and humbled as God has proven Himself faithful beyond my ability to comprehend.
Maybe you’re in the devastatingly dark middle of an unchosen journey. One that leaves you tempted to pull away from the Lord wondering, How could a good God lead me to such a difficult place?
Oh, friend. I understand.
So does David, the shepherd destined to be king, who penned the words of Psalm 23. David’s desperately honest cry in Psalm 22:1 reveals he was well-acquainted with discouragement and despair: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?” (ESV)
Despite the agony and distress we find in Psalm 22, Psalm 23 reveals David still knew where his hope was found. This shepherd boy needed a greater Shepherd — the Lord. We do too.
So how do we keep choosing to follow our Shepherd when He leads us into valleys we’d rather avoid? We can begin by remembering these two truths about the Lord:
1) He will never lead us carelessly.
Psalm 23:1-3a paints such a serene picture: “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” (ESV).
We might imagine lush green hills like you’d find in Ireland, but David's reality was the steep, rocky, dry Judean hills. Hills that had to be carefully traveled in order to get to the water and vegetation waiting in the valleys below.
Shepherds leading their flocks also had to be cautious about the timing of their trips. Hard rains could quickly lead to flash floods in a gorge. When a shepherd knew a storm was coming, he wouldn't allow the sheep to be down in the gorge because they’d drown, but waited patiently until the storm passed before leading his flock down to drink. So not only did sheep have to trust where the shepherd was leading them; they had to trust the when of his leading.
Our Shepherd wants to get us to the still waters. He wants us to lie down and rest where it's safe. But we have to trust that His timing is perfect and His provision is good.
2) He will always lead us intentionally.
The end of Psalm 23:3 says, "He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3b, ESV).The very reputation of the Lord is at stake in His leading. That means we can trust He will always lead us in perfect ways — for our goodness and for the sake of His name.
A friend of mine who lives in Israel says the phrase “paths of righteousness” can actually be described as circles of righteousness. It's like circular paths going around the mountain. If you were to try to travel straight up and over a mountain, that would be incredibly hard and potentially deadly. So, when a good shepherd would lead the flock, he would travel around the mountain, maybe even in a zig-zag pattern that formed a picture of circles around the mountain because that was the safest path.
Another interesting fact is that the Hebrew word for “paths” refers to well-worn paths or deep ruts that are actually good ruts, important because they marked the safest paths. While these paths could be formed by one shepherd over time, it's more likely they were formed by other shepherds who’d gone before — generations of shepherds wisely walking the same paths. Even today, you can literally look at the hills in Israel and see paths the shepherds have been walking for generations.
I wonder, What deep ruts or paths have you created in your life of regularly walking with God? What deep, positive places have others forged that you can follow? I encourage you to remind yourself of those paths, of those regular rhythms of your relationship with God.
These paths of righteousness are good because they always circle back to God. Let’s keep walking those paths daily and let them lead us back to Him, again and again.
If you’re in a low valley right now, gracious do I ever know what that looks and feels like. But let me speak life into your worn-out, broken down, hurting heart. I’ve lived the horrors where I couldn't see any way out. But there’s always a way with God.
Stay close to Him. Stay close to people who love Him. And He will make a miraculous way. One you couldn’t have imagined, but one that is perfectly timed and planned.
Heavenly Father, even when my heart is hurting … even when I don’t understand what You’re doing … I’m choosing to trust Your love for me. I’m choosing to follow Jesus, the Shepherd who laid down His life for His sheep. The One who willingly died for me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY
Psalm 23:4, "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." (ESV)
Shift from asking why God allows hard things to learning how to rely on Him in the midst of circumstances that make you resistant to trust, with Lysa TerKeurst’s FREE resource, How Do I Know God is Working This Out? 5 Truths You Need in Your Hard Situation. Download your copy here today.
Learn more about King David and the crucial life lessons we find in 1 & 2 Kings on trusting God with Lysa’s new study, Trustworthy: Overcoming Our Greatest Struggles to Trust God. Preorder your copy here today.
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REFLECT AND RESPOND
How does it encourage you today to know that Jesus always leads us carefully and intentionally? Join the conversation here.
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