But even when hard things in life come from all directions, I've been reminded again at how faithful our God is to draw near to us when we draw near to Him. He is so merciful to prepare us for the road ahead, even when we have no idea what's coming or how He has already been working behind the scenes in many ways. I love that about Him because it gives us a glimpse of how tenderly He cares for us and yet, I think it's something that's often missed by many of us for a variety of reasons. We have such a limited ability to see much more than what's right in front of us, but in His Sovereignty and Wisdom, He sees everything and knows all that has ever been or will ever be. He is God and we are not. When we don't understand what He's doing or where He is in the midst of our pain, I've learned to set my feelings aside as much as I can and instead, cling to Him and to the truth He has revealed. While our emotions and feelings are gifts that come from Him, we cannot only operate in them because they will lead us astray. Our feelings can change on a dime and are influenced by the wind, but He is our Rock, the Unchanging One who is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. When my mind wants to despair and my heart grows weary, I am learning to look to Him first and only.
I've been reading a little book since December that has been a real gift for this season of life. My Mom first recommended it last year and then Travis read it this summer with some of his volunteer staff. I picked it up before Christmas and have been reading it with a couple of students and a friend.
It's called "A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23" by W. Phillip Keller.
It is a great little book that walks through Psalm 23 from the viewpoint of the author, who was a Shepherd in Europe, and he really unpacks that Psalm by providing some incredible insight into what it's like to be a Shepherd and what's unique about sheep. The Shepherd/Sheep comparison between God and His people is not one that man came up with, but it's a description of who He is that God himself gave us. I've been blown away by how many misconceptions I've had about what this Psalm is really about, but mostly I've just been impacted again at the incredible care and wisdom and love of our Shepherd. Just as a good Shepherd goes to great lengths to protect and provide for his sheep so that they thrive under his care, THE Good Shepherd has done and does the same for us. Keller makes a strong point in his book that it matters whose care we are under and who we call Shepherd. The same sheep can starve or thrive based on who is leading and caring for them. As I've journeyed through this week and all it's ups and downs, I've thought of that truth so often. Without Christ and the Truth of His Word, I do not know how I would get out of bed.
It's been the kind of week that has found me more often than not, curled up on the couch with my Bible in hand and worship music in my ears. I've had to anchor my soul this week to keep from giving into despair. Not much has been accomplished around here, but some weeks just warrant chores being cast aside so that you can sit at Jesus' feet instead. Grief is tough and it comes in many forms, for many reasons. However, as I've experienced again, death is not the only way that our world gets shaken. A betrayal, a job loss, a diagnosis, a frienship severed, a relationship strained, we all face losses of many kinds and sometimes in one wave after another. Yet God is gracious in every way and faithful to those who call Him by name. He gives us emotions that help us empty and heal, but knowing our weaknesses He also says to just come to Him and lay it all at his feet. He knows that we are feeble sheep who need a Shepherd and a Savior, so He came to be both. In His care we not only survive, but we thrive. And when we trust Him with all of our broken dreams and hurts, He is there. He doesn't promise us an explanation or an easy road to take, but He says He'll take us by the hand and walk with us through the fire. He won't let us get burned or even bear the smell of smoke. Because we are precious and honored in His sight and because He loves us, He will never leave us or forsake us (Isaiah 43:1-5). He is jealous of his reputation as a Good Shepherd and so am I. He has been so faithful to us, to me, and I know He'll continue to journey with us as we move forward. I would never choose to go through the hard stuff of life, but as the dust settles and the tears dry up, I am ALWAYS reminded that the hard stuff is where I find Him the most present. The depths of our relationship have been formed and forged in the darkness and I wouldn't trade that experience for anything.
We are well over here, just pressing into the Lord and doing our best to trust Him with what we do not know or understand. Please keep my brother in law and sister in your prayers, their grief is much deeper and their road long. We sure do love them and I'm thrilled that we get to spend some more time with them soon. I've got two little rays of sunshine who have a way of making hurting hearts heal.
I hope you have a blessed weekend and if you're hurting or facing a loss of some kind today, I pray that you will lean on your Shepherd and remember whose care you're in, if you've trusted in Him as your Savior. In all things, He is faithful and He is there...and He is EVERYTHING.
"My soul melts from heaviness; strengthen me according to your Word...This is my comfort in my affliction, for your Word has given me life...Unless your law had been my delight, I would then have perished in my affliction. I will never forget your precepts, for by them You have given me life. I am Yours, save me...Through your precepts I get understanding...Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path...You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your Word...The entrance of your Words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple..." Psalm 119:28, 50, 92-94, 104-105, 114, 130