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“He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart…” (Isaiah 40:11)
“The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides 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 love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” (Psalm 23)
I regret to say that when my unbelief gets the better of me, it makes me run around like a turkey with its head chopped off. My anxious thoughts dart from here to there, desperately trying to find something concrete and stable to stand on in the darkness. Likewise, my troubled heart flitters around like a darting sparrow unable to find a place to rest. When unbelief causes me to lose my spiritual bearings, I fall captive to anxiety and fear.
A million worries flood into my mind: I can’t feel God’s love, I can’t sense God’s presence, maybe I’ve committed some sin to make his presence leave me, maybe I’ve committed a whole bunch of sins I’m unaware of that he’s upset with me about, have I been doing enough good works, am I still right with God, am I progressing enough as a Christian, is God displeased with me, have I disappointed him, why can’t I hear God’s voice anymore……..the list of faithless and unfounded worries goes on and on and on if I allow it to. Sometimes I make pathetic stabs in the dark with Scriptures to try and combat all these worries, but if faith does not accompany them, then there is no victory for me.
Our minds know all the correct answers to these questions–that God is not upset with us but is pleased with us because of Christ (Romans 5:1-2), that we are “right” with God because of Christ (Romans 3:20-26), that good works do not earn us favor or right standing with him (Ephesians 2:8-9, Titus 3:4-7), that he has never left us but is always present with us (Hebrews 13:5)…. But how hard it is for a rational mind to convince a faithless heart–it’s impossible!
Worries often come because, like little lambs, we’ve lost sight of our Good Shepherd, who is nevertheless constantly watching over us. Just because our eyes are looking in a different direction doesn’t mean that he has left us. He is just as present with us and just as watchful over us–whether or not we see or believe it. What a comforting thought it is to know we are in the care of our Good Shepherd! Knowing that our well-being (Psalm 23, Romans 8:28), our progress as a Christian (Philippians 1:6, Romans 8:28-30) and our eternal destination (Ephesians 1:3-14) is in the Lord’s hands (and not our own) completely takes the pressure off of us and removes all our anxiety. We can rest secure in the arms of our Good Shepherd.
“The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms…Blessed are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the LORD? He is your shield and helper…” (Deuteronomy 34:27, 29)
“I [Jesus] am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me–just as the Father knows me and I know the Father–and I lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10:11, 14-15)