When Serenity is Not Our Reality
“The Lord is my shepherd….” Reading those five words immediately brings to mind pastoral images. You can picture the fluffy white sheep, soft green fields, gentle breezes, and clear streams. Your heart rate begins to slow and, even if only for a fleeting moment, you feel rest. Then, inevitably, reality crashes through the temporary calm. You remember you are not a sheep in a pasture. You are a person in the real world that doesn’t have the time to rest. Kids have to get to practice. Dinner has to get made. Meetings have to be prepared for. The TPS reports aren’t filling themselves out. At the end of another long day, you’re too tired, quite frankly, to rest. So what is the connection here? How does rest relate to trust?
In Light of The Shepherd
Psalm 23 is the perfect picture of resting in the Lord, not because of the tranquil mental images painted, but because of the factors that must be in place so that the sheep might find the respite described. For a sheep to lie down and rest, food and water must be readily available. There must be protection from predators and parasites. But it’s more than just those factors being met; the sheep must trust that their needs will be met. It is almost impossible for a sheep to lie down and rest unless they believe their shepherd cares for them.
Otherwise, the sheep will expend energy searching for its next meal. It will continue to live its life in a constant state of high alert as it scans for potential predators. And it will end up consuming unhealthy vegetation, ultimately resulting in sickness and disease. To combat this ironically self-destructive survival instinct, the shepherd spends countless hours with the sheep, simply caring for their needs and building their trust. When the sheep are able to trust their shepherd, they are in turn able to rest. Only this will result in a healthy, productive, happy flock.
A Whirlwind of Worry
How many times have I realized I am living my life constantly searching for my next metaphorical meal because I’m convinced it might not come? Or that I exist in a constant state of high alert, my head on a swivel watching for danger in every shadow? How many times have I found myself subsisting on things so unhealthy they are destroying me from the inside out?
It is easy to blame it on the frenetic pace of the world, the endless to-do list, and all the things necessary to make me and my family happy, even if the happiness is only for a brief moment. It’s grueling, and we wear our exhaustion like a badge of honor, proud of how hard we work because in our effort, we find our worth and value.
When We Trust Our Shepherd
So, how does rest relate to trust? The reality is, we can’t rest because we don’t trust the Shepherd. We aren’t convinced He has our best interest in mind or, if He does, we’re not convinced He can actually take care of us. The bottom line is that we have convinced ourselves we are the only ones that can do it right, whatever “it” is. We believe that peace, joy, worth and value are achieved through effort, sweat, skill, and grit. Our lives are a treadmill of constant striving; we are in constant motion, never quite getting anywhere. This is how rest relates to trust.
This week, it’s time to get off the treadmill. The Shepherd is with you in the field. He protects you from predators and leads you to pastures of soft grass and calm streams. Places you can find rest. The God that created you, the One that loves you so much He made a way for you to be with Him even though it was impossible, is trustworthy. God knows exactly what you need. He is love. And He is peace. He is the Good Shepherd.