We have been looking at Psalm 23. In part one, we explored two important questions (How do you know you need shepherding, and who or what shepherd do you follow?). In part two, we looked at Psalm 23’s opposite, and what it looks like when we seek to do life following another shepherd. In this final blog post, we are going to look at specific ways Psalm 23 is meant to reorient our faith and strengthen us in our times of need (which is all the time!).
One of the questions we like to ask in our counseling is, “what else is true?”. Our sufferings are real. It is not helpful to minimize the pain that suffering brings. Our struggles with sin and temptation are also true. It is not helpful to put a spiritual band-aid or trite spiritual truism on them. It is also not helpful to spiral in despair as though life’s struggles with suffering and sin are the only things that are true. One of God’s gracious gifts in his word is to constantly reorient our gaze to see what else is true because of his love for us.
There is a lot we could highlight and unpack in Psalm 23. But let’s look at three specific blessings we receive because God is our shepherd. These promises and provisions from the Lord are meant to be daily mercies, generously supplied, and embraced by faith.
Truth #1 We lack nothing
In verse 1, we are told that because the Lord is our shepherd, we have what we need. One of Satan’s worst lies (told over and over) is that God is stingy and withholding from us. One of my seminary professors once said that in that lie is the root of most sin. But God gives you and me everything—everything!—we need. In fact, in verse 5 we are told that our cup overflows. This imagery has been especially sweet in my own walk of faith this summer. God doesn’t just give me what I need. He doesn’t just throw the crumbs my way. Instead, my cup overflows.
What would it look like for you, today, to live as though God has generously given you all that you need? How would that bring fresh perspective to your most challenging relationships, ongoing fears and concerns, or the places where you are tempted to escape or overindulge to make life feel better?
Truth #2 Even in the darkest, scariest places, his presence comforts and calms my fears.
Life is hard, and none of us is immune to its hardships. Loss in all its forms, grief, sickness, uncertainty, unresolved conflict, troubled finances or relationships just begin to scratch the surface. The list of scary places is virtually endless. The remarkable promise of verse 4 is that even though we go through the darkest valley, we do not have to fear danger because the Lord, our shepherd, is with us. This language is helpful and convicting to me. David writes about the darkest valley (or the Valley of the Shadow of Death in other translations). The comfort is not that the valley will be less dark or scary. The comfort is not a guarantee that the valley will end anytime soon. The promise is that the Lord is with us. And because he is with us, we do not have to fear.
If you struggle with anxiety, you know how fears can overtake you. I have had my own struggles with anxiety. This verse is helpful to me because God doesn’t promise me that life will be free from fretful things. Instead, he promises to be my shepherd and continually with me as I face life’s fears.
What would it look like for you, today, to live with the belief that God is present with you? How might that change the way you face your scariest places? What is one tangible step of faith you could take today, in your particular hardship, because God is with you to comfort and calm you?
Truth #3 His faithful love will pursue us all the days of our lives.
I have been reading Psalm 23 out of the Christian Standard Bible this summer. I have found their translations of the Psalms particularly helpful. I love how the CSB translates verse 6, as it most accurately captures the Hebrew verb. We are used to reading that goodness and mercy (or faithful love) will follow us. But in our modern use of the word “follow”, we might lose some of the preciousness of this promise. The actual thrust of the verse is that his goodness and steadfast, faithful love will actually pursue us all the days of our lives.
Our Good Shepherd is emphatically declaring that no matter where we go, no matter what we experience, no matter what we do, his love and goodness is going to be coming after us every single day of our lives. God doesn’t just tolerate his people. He relentlessly pursues us and pours out love and goodness again, and again, and again. He never gets tired of pursuing us. He never thinks about giving up. He never second guesses making you his son or daughter. What a faith-fortifying promise!
What is one practical way you can live out the reality of his love and goodness in your life today? How might this change the way you pray today? Perhaps you could ask God to help you believe all that is true of you (and him!), that is emphasized in Psalm 23.
We have just scratched the surface of this beautiful Psalm. Our hope is that you have been blessed in your own walk with God and strengthened in your faith as you face life’s hardship. This has been a delightful journey with you in Psalm 23. But even more so, we have the incredible privilege of a daily journey with the Shepherd of Psalm 23. Thank you, Lord.