“The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me besides 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
I have read this Psalm more than a dozen times and never before has it made me tear up in complete gratitude, until now.
I have been thinking a lot lately about a problem I have. An insecurity, a fear, whatever you want to call it. I am often living in a state of anticipation that those I am closest to are mad at me, or about to be mad at me. Even if nothing happened to hinder the relationship, I have a nagging fear following me around saying that somehow the person is mad at me and there is nothing, absolutely nothing, I can do to fix it. It is so draining to live this way, and these thoughts get in the way of so many amazing opportunities of relationship.
Here’s a practical example of how this plays out in my life. First of all, a little background. My husband, Caleb, if you didn’t know him and you asked me to tell you one thing about him that can sum up a large part of his personality, I would tell you his gift of mercy. I’m telling you, it takes SO much for him to get upset with anyone. He forgives quicker than anyone I know, and he always says “I forgive you and I don’t hold it against you.” Things that would hurt me instantly, he normally doesn’t even think twice about when it’s done to him. But my fear of people always being mad at me affects the way I interact with him at times, especially in the first year of our marriage. We could have been completely happy and laughing and then all of a sudden this fear sneaks up and says “he is mad at you”. Literally that is how sudden it can happen. I have gotten better with this over the years, with lots of conversations with him and tons of praying, but especially in the beginning when this would happen I would say things out of nowhere like “why are you mad at me?“, “what did I do to upset you?” and literally nothing would have happened between the giggling and the intense feelings of me thinking he was mad at me.
Now if you don’t struggle with this, and I pray you don’t, then this is all going to sound crazy to you. I get that. It sounds crazy to me too, but that’s why I feel I need to talk about it. Because it is crazy and controls my interactions with those I am close to.
This is not a sad story though because God is already beginning to bind up what is broken in me with all of this. I’m thankful.
So why did I mention Psalm 23 earlier? I read it this morning and with tears in my eyes, I understood and believed that God is not always mad at me. In fact, even when He does correct He does it in love, with no malicious intent, no desire to manipulate, and no hurtful words. He genuinely loves us as His children, and wants to draw us near to Him (vs. 4).
I think David (the amazing man who wrote this psalm) knew this truth to his core. David was a shepherd and took care of his own sheep, so he knew very well the parallel he was making between a shepherd and God.
I love the picture David paints about the green pastures and the quiet waters. A shepherd would walk his sheep to fresh places for grazing and would lead them to streams for them to drink. That is metaphorically, exactly what God does for us. He leads us to places of rest, even in the difficult valleys of life, and provides us streams to quiet our souls and be refilled.
A shepherd would use his rod to defend any attackers, such as lions and wolves, that would try to get his sheep. He would use his staff, which has a crooked neck (think candy cane shape), to gently place over the sheep’s’ neck and then pull them nearer to his side to keep them safe and in the flock. He is the ultimate comforter.
Isn’t that a beautiful picture? What David is saying in Psalm 23, and what I believe to be true, is that God is our Shepherd. He protects us and pulls us nearer to Him all because He desires to give us what is best, and because of His unending love for us. He knows we would wander away and get hurt if it weren’t for His protection. He could just say something like “okay see ya” everytime we wandered, but I don’t believe that is the kind of Father He is. In fact, I know that He is not that kind of God, because I have felt His tugging time and time again when I stray.
He desires to lead us through green pastures to rest. He delights in leading us to quiet places of water to be refilled. He wants to keep us safe and close to His protective side.
Maybe your problem isn’t continually thinking those you love most are mad at you. Maybe it’s that you feel the constant need to please your people so you can feel valued. Maybe you feel like you are not good enough and can never measure up. Or maybe you constantly feel the urge to be busy and live a hectic life so you can look successful.
Whatever it is, if you believe that God’s Word is true and applicable, and that His character never changes, then you can believe that what Psalm 23 says is just as true about God now as it was when David wrote it. You can believe that God is your Shepherd, and only wants the best for you. He leads, quiets, and protects you because He cares for you on a whole other level than you’ve ever been cared for before.
He is a good Shepherd. The best of the best. What an honor to be seen, loved, protected, and cherished by Him. I pray we never take Him for granted.
P.S.: A necklace for Psalm 23 is coming soon, so keep a lookout! Make sure to scroll to the very bottom of the home page to sign up for the email list so you don’t miss anything.