We all have times when our days just seem to spin out of control. It is not an easy thing for many of us - we just don't like to have control in the hands of anyone else! Whenever control shifts, we feel "out of control" - anxiety creeps in, frustration mingles with our anxious thoughts, until we end up on the edge of wanting to just scream, "Give me back the reigns, fool!" Okay, if this has never described your day, don't read on! If it has...maybe you'd benefit.
1-3 God, my shepherd! I don't need a thing. You have bedded me down in lush meadows, you find me quiet pools to drink from. True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction. (Psalm 23:1-3 The Message)
Most of us associate the 23rd Psalm with funerals - it is the one most commonly read at the graveside. So, why am I directing our attention to a psalm about "death" today? Well, read it again - the very first three words say it all! "GOD, my shepherd."
GOD - you may remember as I have taught before of the meaning of these names of God in our Bibles written in all caps. LORD and GOD both stand for the name Israel knew God by - Jehovah. In the simplest meaning, it is translated, "The unchanging one". In fact, whenever we see the name of GOD or LORD, we can count on the passage speaking something of his being totally unchangeable in his promises, permanent in every way, and becoming all we have need of in the moment. In fact, it is his intense compassion as a loving and unchanging God which moves him into action within our lives.
So, as this psalm opens, it starts with what we all have need of in our lives when things seem to be spinning out of control - a shepherd! What does the shepherd do? He guides the sheep. Not only does he guide - he protects. When things are spinning out of control - we need not only wise guidance, but we certainly need protection from what others can do to us and what we can do to ourselves. Look at what David says next - "I don't need a thing". Hmmm...let's see....we stand in need of so much...but when we recognize the Shepherd of our souls is in control...we can confidently say, "I don't need a thing". Pretty awesome, if you ask me!
As if being in control is the aim, the next part of the passage settles this little misconception. In fact, David tells us it is God who "beds us down". I don't know about you, but as a mother, whenever I managed to rein-in the kids, get them all washed up and ready for bed, those first moments of peaceful sleep I'd observe as I looked in on them before I turned it at night just melted my heart. Those peaceful little ones, all innocent in their rest, just took away my breath. I imagine this is a little of what God feels whenever he finally gets us to rest in what he has provided for us!
He provides lush meadows - because we don't know our lack of comfort until we experience it as he provides. He gives quiet pools to drink from - simply because we don't know how parched life leaves us until we drink deeply. Spinning out of control takes its toll on our physical bodies, but also on our spiritual reserves. No one appreciates comfort until the pain gets too great to handle. We don't appreciate a cool drink until we experience thirst. I guess pain and thirst are really early warning signs of needing to look for the Shepherd!
Last, but definitely not least, David reminds us of the purpose of the rest and the refreshing - it is in order to catch our breath so we can "live to fight another day". But...we fight from a new vantage point! As we let God take us into his rest, we learn from the master planner of our lives. The next step we take is one with his. It is in yielding control where we find the best "control" we could ever bring into our circumstances. Spinning? Maybe it is time for a little rest.