Battling Anxiety/Seeking Peace: Thankful For My Shepherd

It’s no secret I have a particular fondness for biblical passages on shepherding.

For over twenty years I’ve kept goats and sheep in varying numbers and every day discover one more way I am a sheep in need of a Shepherd.

I wander, I’m afraid when I don’t have to be, I do foolish and self-harmful things, I push and shove to get that certain bit of food or space or whatever when all the while there is an abundance, and I often make it hard for the One who loves me best to guide me to the safety and rest of His fold.

That’s one reason the Twenty-third Psalm is especially beautiful to me.

But there’s another reason-hidden inside the original Hebrew-that makes it a favorite Bible passage and a very appropriate one for these frightening times: within the verses are references to seven names of God.

And unlike we who are named according to our parents’ whimsy, God IS His name.

“The Lord is my Shepherd”

Jehovah Rohi (The Lord is my Shepherd and my Guide) – “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will GUIDE you into all truth” ~John 16:13

My goats and sheep will follow me anywhere. Why?

Because they know I won’t lead them into danger and if we happen to stumble upon it, I will protect them and fight for them.

My Shepherd King is so much more trustworthy than I am.

He knows the end from the beginning and loves me more than I love myself. If I will only follow closely behind Him, I can rest assured that wherever He leads, I am in His loving care.

“I shall not want”

Jehovah Jireh (The Lord is my Provider) “My God shall supply all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus.” ~Philippians 4:19

My critters are utterly dependent upon me to make sure they have the basic necessities-food, water and a safe and dry place to sleep at night. They can’t run to the grocery store if I forget to toss them grain or hay.

But they don’t pace back and forth afraid I won’t do what I’ve always done.

I waste so much energy and time worrying that somehow God will forget to provide what I need.

He won’t.

It’s that simple. I am not promised everything I WANT. I’m not even guaranteed everything I think I need. But I am absolutely certain that in Christ I have the most needful thing-forgiveness of my sins and right standing with the Father.

Image result for phil 4:19

“He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters”

Jehovah Shalom (The Lord is my Peace — my calm in the midst of a storm) – “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely” ~1 Thessalonians 5:23

Shalom is a big word.

According to Strong’s Concordance (7965) Shalom means completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord.

Peace isn’t a place or only a promiseit’s a Person.

And that Person is Jesus, my Shepherd King.

When my little flock hears something that frightens them, they run straight toward me and wait to see if I am frightened too. My presence brings them peace.

I am often more foolish than my dumb animals! I run to so many people and things of the world hoping one or the other can bring me the peace I so desperately crave. But I can only really rest when I place my full confidence in Jehovah-Shalom-the One who IS Peace.

“He restores my soul”


Jehovah Rapha (The Lord my Healer) – “And by His stripes we are healed” ~1 Peter 2:24 (and Isaiah 53:5)

Anyone who has spent time with me here knows I’m no fan of “sunshine” Christianity. I’m no “name it and claim it” crusader. So I do not believe that God my Healer means I won’t ever suffer.

That’s why I really love the phrase “He restores my soul”.

Because isn’t that really what we ALL want? Restoration of the very core of who we are? Rest in the center of our being?

Jesus has restored my soul more than once.

When I reach out and touch the hem of His garment, He heals the most broken places in my soul.

“He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake”

Jehovah Tsidkenu (The Lord is my Righteousness; in Him I have
right standing with God
) “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin
for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” ~2
Corinthians 5:21

Let’s be honest, I can always find somebody that makes me look good. There’s always someone whose a little badder than I am.

Problem is, that’s not how God does things. He doesn’t use a sliding scale or a grading curve to determine who meets the mark and who misses it.

God is holy, set apart, completely righteous, pure and good.

I am none of those things.

And there is absolutely no way I can make myself those things.

But He has provided righteousness for me through Christ’s perfect atoning sacrifice if I choose to believe.

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me”

Jehovah Shammah (The Lord is There; He is our Ever-Present God) – “For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” ~Hebrews 13:5

This may actually be my very favorite name of God. “The Lord is There” is an amazing concept!

“Immanuel”-God with us! The Lord Himself come down to dwell with men.

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The God who made the universe, made me. The God who counts the stars and sets them in their place, counts the hairs on my head and set me in this place at this time.

This virus crisis FEELS like the shadow of death.

It feels like some creeping thing slinking around the edges of my family, waiting to devour us. I can’t see it and I can’t stop it.

But I am not alone. Jesus is here.

HE is here.

Right HERE.

RIGHT NOW.

And I can rest in His promise that whatever I may face, I will never, ever face alone.

“Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies”

Jehovah Nissi (The Lord is my Banner, my standard, He covers me) – “When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD will lift up a standard against him” ~Isaiah 59:19

In the Song of Solomon His banner over me is love.

In Ruth, His banner is Kinsman-Redeemer, covering my weakness with His strength.

In the gospels, His banner is victory over sin, death and the grave.

You may be hunkered down in your home, wondering how we all got here- questioning whether this may be a work of evil men or the evil one and when or if we might be rescued.

I can’t answer the why or when.

But I can point you to the Who-the One who wants to love you, to give you strength and to assure you that even death doesn’t have the last word.

“You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”

My Shepherd King cares for me when I’m distressed and He fills me with Himself until my soul overflows.

His goodness and mercy pursues and overtakes me!

I have spent many, many hours hunting down a lost sheep or goat. I’ve had some wander off so far in the woods we couldn’t even hear them, much less see them.

But I do not give up. I do not stop looking. I do not go to bed and say, “I’ll find them tomorrow”.

No!

I pursue them until I can bring them back in the fold. There they dwell in safety, fully cared for as long as they live.

I am worth so much more than a sheep. God will not forget me or dismiss me or allow me to wander forever.

He will come find me and bring me home to His heart and His path.

And one day-one glorious day-He will take me to my forever Home.

QUESTIONS:

  • Does the image of Jesus as Shepherd help your heart find hope? Why or why not?
  • Psalms 22, 23 and 24 are considered by most biblical scholars to represent three images of Christ (22-Suffering Savior, 23-Shepherd, 24-Victorious King). Read them together and see if you agree.
  • Is there one of the names of God included in this study that is particularly precious to you?
  • Write out each name of God and see if you can find one other verse not previously mentioned that deepens your understanding of what the name means.
  • What does it mean to say God IS His name? If you have access to an online concordance, find one or two other names of God that might encourage you right now.

PRAYER:

Father God,

You are a good, perfect and loving Father. You are my Shepherd, my Provider, my Healer, my Righteousness, my Banner and YOU ARE HERE.

Help my heart lean into this truth.

Provide the most needful thing-Yourself-as I walk fearfully through this Valley. Restore my soul and flood it with Your peace.

Thank You that You are my righteousness-I am not left in my sins to receive the punishment they deserve. Thank You for Jesus.

Spread Your banner of love over my heart. Spread your banner of strength over my weakness. Spread Your banner of victory over my feeble attempt to ward off worry.

Let me feel Your Presence and help me trust Your heart.

Amen

Through The Fog And Dark

Through the fog and dark and limits of my sight

I hear birds singing

as they welcome the day

I still can’t see.

Are they better than me at knowing the edges of inky night?

Or do they simply have more faith?

Either way their hearts are boldly trusting in the sun they can’t yet prove is real.

Oh, that my own heart would always rest!

Assured.

Unmoved.

Confident.

Certain.

Even in the dark,

even in the fog,

even under the smothering blanket of sorrow,

in the Son.

The One who burst forth from the grave to prove He IS the One.

The One who promises night has limits,

that death is not the end,

that resurrection is sure.

Then I could sing for those still in the fog

and in the dark,

those whose sight is dimmed by tears.

And remind them that

morning is coming!

As sure as the sunrise.

As sure as the Son rose.

Learning To Trust Again: Access The Truth

I have loved Scripture as long as I can remember.  When I was in second grade I got the notion to read the whole Bible straight through-in the King James Version.  I made it to Leviticus before I threw in the towel.

By the time my kids were grown I had read and studied Scripture for decades. 

But three years before Dominic ran ahead to Heaven I realized my reading had become rote-I felt like I “knew” all the stories.  So I slowed my study to a crawl-only one chapter a day-and I usually copied the whole chapter plus my notes into a journal.  I had just finished this time through the Bible in January before Dom was killed in April.

And all that truth stored in my mind and heart was what I “read” for months when my eyes were too full of tears to see print on a page.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2017/10/16/trust-after-loss-access-the-truth/

I Need To Get It Right


There are lots and lots of things in life where the distance between “good enough” and “perfect” really doesn’t matter.

I don’t aim for hospital corners while making my bed.

I cook without recipes-adding this or that until the taste suits me.

If I walk 8,567 steps or 10,291 steps I am not going to stress about it.

BUT-there is one thing I absolutely MUST get right.

My understanding of God-Who He is, Who Jesus is-matters for ever and ever.

I want to get it right.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2017/03/05/i-want-to-get-it-right/

I’ll Steer Where I Stare

Driving down the road I look to the right at the pond overflowing its banks and find myself drifting out of the lane and onto the shoulder.

I never intend to run off the road.

But I steer where I stare. Every time.

I do the same thing with my thought life.

Image result for steer where you stare

Even before Dominic left us I realized that if I stared long enough and hard enough at the challenges before me (educating and raising four children), the world around me (full of danger and potential danger) or the looming prospect of some giant future obligation, I’d drift from the firm foundation of peace and contentment in Christ and end up in an ocean of worry and despair.

It was critical that I redirect my mind’s attention and my heart’s affection to Jesus and I used Scripture to help me do just that.

I remember the first time I copied out and held onto this verse:

Image result for you keep in perfect peace

Dominic was only six months old and I absolutely, positively HAD to have my gallbladder removed. I was anxious about leaving him and his siblings for the twenty-four hour hospital stay and even more anxious to be placed under general anesthesia.

The last time I’d been wheeled down a hospital hallway for an operation other than a cesarean section was as a three year old.

There’s something very eerie and frightfully final about having that mask placed over your nose and being asked to count backwards. I didn’t count. Instead I repeated my verse.

And when Dominic ran ahead to Heaven, this was one of the verses that helped my heart hold on.

What was once a good habit became a lifeline.

Peace was elusive in those first days, months and even years, but I clung desperately to the truth that if I continued to meditate on, recite and copy out God’s Word my heart would eventually hear it.

Life may be swirling all around me, threatening to steal my hope, my peace, my joy. But I am declaring right now that I will not be swept up into a storm of fear and wild emotions. The Lord has promised me that He will keep me in perfect peace when I fix my mind on Him. I very much recognize I will steer where I stare. So I must watch what I fixate on. If I keep staring at the wrong things, I’ll go in wrong directions. I am choosing to place my attention on the Lord in this very moment. I am choosing to focus on trusting Him and believing His promises. And as I steer my attention more and more toward Him, His peace will come and flood my heart and settle my anxious mind.You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. (Isaiah 26:3)

Lisa TerKeurst, It’s Not Supposed to be This Way

My heart is headed somewhere.

Focusing solely on what I’ve lost, what I’m afraid of, or the emotional and relational storm around me will lead to despair.

When I lift my eyes and fix my gaze on Jesus, He will lead me to hope.

When I reach out my hand for the edge of His garment, He will help me hold on.

Blessing The Dust, A Prayer For The Broken

There are many times in my life when I’ve felt small and unseen.

Many times when my spirit sank so low I couldn’t even remember “up” much less find it.

But there is no moment so humbling as the one when I came face-to-face with the undeniable FACT that my son had exhaled for the last time.

Walking into the sanctuary where his body lay still, unnatural and absolutely silent, my heart shattered into even smaller pieces.

So I understand Job’s cry.

I cry out to You for help, but You do not answer me; when I stand up, You merely look at me.

Job 30:20 HCSB

I know what it is to fall to the ground in utter dejection, complete hopelessness and pray, pray, pray that life leaves my body because the pain is unbearable.

That’s one reason Lent is a kind of relief every year.

It’s a season when others join me in admitting that from dust we came and to dust we will return.

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But it’s also a season of hope.

Because while Lent forces my heart to focus on my frailty, it points me toward my Savior.

The One who made us is the One who rescues us.

The One who saves us is the One who sees us.

The One who sees us is the One who longs to comfort us.

I love this blessing by Jan Richardson:

“All those days
you felt like dust,
like dirt,
as if all you had to do
was turn your face
toward the wind
and be scattered
to the four corners

or swept away
by the smallest breath
as insubstantial—

did you not know
what the Holy One
can do with dust?

This is the day
we freely say
we are scorched.

This is the hour
we are marked
by what has made it
through the burning.

This is the moment
we ask for the blessing
that lives within
the ancient ashes,
that makes its home
inside the soil of
this sacred earth.

All those days
you felt like dust,
like dirt,
as if all you had to do
was turn your face
toward the wind
and be scattered
to the four corners

or swept away
by the smallest breath
as insubstantial—

did you not know
what the Holy One
can do with dust?

This is the day
we freely say
we are scorched.

This is the hour
we are marked
by what has made it
through the burning.

This is the moment
we ask for the blessing
that lives within
the ancient ashes,
that makes its home
inside the soil of
this sacred earth.

So let us be marked
not for sorrow.
And let us be marked
not for shame.
Let us be marked
not for false humility
or for thinking
we are less
than we are

but for claiming
what God can do
within the dust,
within the dirt,
within the stuff
of which the world
is made
and the stars that blaze
in our bones
and the galaxies that spiral
inside the smudge
we bear.”

—Jan Richardson, Blessing the Dust, For Ash Wednesday

It’s no secret I am frail, prone to break-even shatter-into the tiniest bits of dust.

But that doesn’t stop my God from gathering what’s left to make something beautiful.

When I find myself face down in the dirt, no strength to lift my head, I remind my heart, “[Do] you not know what the Holy One can do with dust?”

Worn Out and Weary: Where Can I Go For Help?


I don’t know about you but I’m tired.

Not just physically tired-although there are plenty of days when chores done in the Alabama sun beat my body down.

I’m soul weary.

My heart cries out, “No more! I can’t carry a single other burden! I’m buckling under the load!”

Jesus understands.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2019/08/10/scripture-journal-challenge-worn-out-and-weary-jesus-understands/

All Our Sorrows Will Be Healed


Can we just admit that life is hard?

Can we stop hiding our sorrow and pain and struggles and difficulties and let people in on what’s going on?

I truly believe that if we did, we’d all be better for it.

Because no one-really, truly no one-is spared from some kind of problem. And for many of us, it has nothing to do with our own choices. It’s visited upon us from the outside.

It comes out of nowhere, happens fast and suddenly consumes every aspect of our lives.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2019/08/09/scripture-journal-challenge-earth-has-no-sorrow-that-heaven-cant-heal/

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

If you’ve joined me here for very long, you know I have a particular dislike for what I call “Sunshine Christianity”.

It’s not because I’m opposed to smiling faces and feel-good Bible verses plastered across doors, hallways, t-shirts and social media.

It’s because it doesn’t tell the whole story and sets up hearts for disappointment (at best) and walking away from Jesus (at worst) when their personal experience falls short of this hap, hap, happy picture portrayed by so many.

This life is NOT all smiles and rainbows. It’s hard work, hard times and often devastating circumstances.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2019/08/05/scripture-journal-challenge-never-alone/

Knocked Down But Not Destroyed: Earthly Days, Eternal Impact

Eternity is impossible for the human mind to grasp.

We talk about it even though we can’t really understand what it means because it’s so far outside our experience and imagination.

But it’s a fact and it matters.

The life I live on earth, made up of days, years and decades is but a blip on the screen of God’s eternal timeline.

Yet what I do here and now will ripple throughout forever.

Taking hold of that fact, clinging tightly to that truth can help me make choices that will make a real difference.

To win the contest you must deny yourselves many things that would keep you from doing your best. An athlete goes to all this trouble just to win a blue ribbon or a silver cup, but we do it for a heavenly reward that never disappears.

I Corinthians 9:25 TL

I remember one particularly grueling semester in college.  I had foolishly stacked five upper level political science classes on top of one another thinking that taking them together would be easier.

That was a dumb idea.

The end of semester assignments included 200 pages of written term papers along with essay tests and other random bits.  For two weeks I fell asleep on my bedroom floor, pen in hand, legal pad underneath my head and surrounded by dozens of open books I used for reference.

After composing the papers, I had to type them, add footnotes and bibliography and deliver them. All back before computers and word processing programs made it easy and electronic!

Oh, how I wanted to give up and give in!  I was certain that I was not going to make it.  I just knew that my body or mind or both would give out before I completed the task.

But they didn’t and I did manage to make it through.

I was willing to put forth the effort and pay the price for a letter grade!

No one cares what I made on those essays.  No one asks me about my college classes or grades.  At 56 I can’t even remember what I wrote about.

Now I face a much more challenging task:  Living without the companionship of one of my precious children.  The “grade” I make on this effort has eternal impact.  

This is the Valley of Weeping, yet Christ promises it will become a place of refreshing.

“When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of springs where pools of blessing and refreshment collect after rains!”

Psalm 84:6 TLB

I can’t see an end for this grueling work.  There’s no “semester break” circled on my calendar.

But there will be an end to this toil and pain-just as surely as there was an end those many years ago.

As for us, we have this large crowd of witnesses around us. So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us so tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us. Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right side of God’s throne.

Hebrews 12:1-2

And the reward for faithfully completing this assignment is so much more valuable than a good grade.

Yet, my brothers, I do not consider myself to have “arrived”, spiritually, nor do I consider myself already perfect. But I keep going on, grasping ever more firmly that purpose for which Christ grasped me. My brothers, I do not consider myself to have fully grasped it even now. But I do concentrate on this: I leave the past behind and with hands outstretched to whatever lies ahead I go straight for the goal—my reward the honour of being called by God in Christ.

Phillipians 3:12-16

This reward is eternal-a never-ending supply of God’s grace and love and joy that will overwhelm the toil and pain I’ve endured.

Reunion.

Redemption.

Restoration.

So while I wait, I encourage my heart with this truth:

We are cracked and chipped from our afflictions on all sides, but we are not crushed by them. We are bewildered at times, but we do not give in to despairWe are persecuted, but we have not been abandoned. We have been knocked down, but we are not destroyed10 We always carry around in our bodies the reality of the brutal death and suffering of Jesus. As a result, His resurrection life rises and reveals its wondrous power in our bodies as well. 11 For while we live, we are constantly handed over to death on account ]f Jesus so that His life may be revealed even in our mortal bodies of flesh.

2 Corinthians 4:8 VOICE

God invites me to join Him in the work He is doing. 

Isn’t that mind-blowing? 

He could announce the Gospel from the mountaintops or have angels declare it from the heavens, but He doesn’t. 

He has ordained that these fragile bodies of ours, these fickle hearts, these often disobedient hands carry the Good News to the ends of the earth.

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The God of Heaven entrusts me with His love, empowers me with His strength and commissions me as an ambassador of reconciliation to reach a world longing for reconciliation-with Him and with one another. 

So when I look up and say, “I don’t have time”.  He says, “Get your priorities straight.” 

When I whine, “I don’t know what to do”.  He says, “I’ve got that covered.  Just look around and do what’s at hand.” 

When I groan, “It won’t make a difference anyway”.  He says, “Do you doubt the power of obedience to the Gospel to change the world?”

My life makes a difference.

Your life makes a difference.

Eternity is shaped, in part, by how we spend it.

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This post is the second in a series I began writing for a presentation I gave last Saturday entitled “Don’t Grow Weary In Doing Well: Making Kingdom Work a Priority”.

This is post is the third in a series I wrote for a presentation entitled “Don’t Grow Weary In Doing Well: Making Kingdom Work a Priority”.

If you want to read the first post, you can find it here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2020/02/07/today-is-a-gift/

The second is here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2020/02/11/life-has-limits-i-want-my-legacy-to-last/