The Lord is Our Shepherd

As we work at becoming acquainted with God, we will see all the different ways in which our Shepherd is caring for us – giving us just what we need to solve a problem or meet a challenge.

By Amy Sparkman

Categories: Fatherhood/Motherhood, Psalms

Two days ago, it was sunny and 65 degrees here in Connecticut; that night, it snowed 4 inches. The snow turned to rain by mid-morning, and continued well into last night. Then the wind picked up, and today, it's gusting to 50 mph. Through it all, the daffodils are starting to bloom. It's happening early this year — we've had a mild winter — and it's tempting to think that these first spring flowers aren't going to make it in such volatile weather. But for the last several weeks, I've been watching them sprout, their stems grow tall and straight, and the flower buds begin to form — seemingly without effort or a care in the world. Despite mercurial external conditions, the daffodil maintains an internal calm and confidence. It has complete faith in its identity and purpose — and never doubts its source or well-being. Inevitably, the daffodil opens into full bloom.

Two days ago, my eldest child called for help in the middle of the night — he couldn't swallow or sleep, and he was concerned about a big test the next day. Earlier that evening, my youngest child and I talked for a couple of hours about a significant decision he has to make. First thing the following morning, my middle child achieved a long-sought-after goal and couldn't have been happier… until fear stole into his thought, clouding the victory with debilitating self-doubt. As I prayed for each child, I worked with several ideas from the Bible, and I thought of the daffodils.

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.

This first verse of Psalm 23 is wonderfully comprehensive! It includes a declaration of Truth as well as a promise: There is nothing missing from our lives that we need. We are never lacking supply or intelligence or direction or love — or anything else that tries to convince us that God is not supreme, all-powerful, and infinitely good. Not only do we have all that we need, but we do not have a spirit of wanting what we don't need. We are not greedy, self-centered, spoiled, or entitled. The more we know God, the more we trust God to guide, guard, and govern our lives. Just so, the daffodils don't fight Mother Nature. They are not daunted by her wily ways. Instead, they are clear about their identity and their place in the natural world — and so they grow, persistently, sturdily, and gracefully.

Take this verse to heart: what seems to be "wanting" in your life? Jot down a list, and then work with the items, one by one, to see what God knows about each "want." In the case of my children, each one needed a greater sense of peace and well-being. My eldest wanted to feel well, my youngest wanted to be free from a heavy weight of responsibility for deciding his next step, and my middle child needed to know God as the great I AM, rather than continuing to believe that he is self-made and self-maintained.

I couldn't address their wants/needs until I was utterly clear about God as our Shepherd. What does a Shepherd do? He tends his sheep, keeps them safe, cares for every need, moves them from one good grazing ground to the next, finds the strays, guards against enemies, keeps his sheep peaceful and calm — He cares for all of their needs. "The Lord is our Shepherd…" Wow!

Again, the Bible is our guide with a command as well as a promise: "Acquaint now thyself with Him and be at peace" (Job 22:21). Right now, we can take the time to think deeply about God and our relationship to Him. Right now, we can devote a few minutes each day to clarify who we are and what our purpose is. As God's beloved child, God's image and likeness, our purpose is to glorify God, to bear witness to God's love, and to share the joy of knowing God with all mankind.

Sometimes, it seems easier to think about the relationship between God and oneself, but much harder to put into practice. My children certainly felt this way the other night: "I know God is here, but this is a pretty big problem!" Isn't that what made everyone's heart quake at the sight of Goliath, and tremble all the more when Goliath spoke so fiercely, threateningly, and contemptuously to Saul and the Israelites? (See I Samuel 17.) That's the way "wants" work, too. They slither into our thinking, and stretch their tentacles until we are consumed with feelings of lack and insecurity. But, David was undaunted by Goliath, just as the daffodils are unfazed by the wind and weather. David slew Goliath by being true to himself — to his conviction that God was his Shepherd and would provide just the right answer to meet the need. A stone's throw later, Goliath was flattened and Saul and his people were free.

David was well acquainted with God. We can be, too! As we work at it, we will see all the different ways in which our Shepherd is caring for us, just as He does the daffodils. Needless to say, my children were at peace by the next morning — and continuing to grow ever more sturdily toward full bloom!