My wife noticed something about Psalm 23 the other day which I found to be very insightful.
David writes about going through valleys in life. I'm sure we know all about that. Heck, I wrote about it just last week.
But while I wrote about the second half, my wife keyed in on something else David said at the end of the first half of this incredible piece of writing:
The Lord is my shepherd;
I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
he leads me beside peaceful streams.
He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
bringing honor to his name.
Even when I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
protect and comfort me. (v. 1-4)
David is talking about going through really tough times, and then he says to God, "your rod and your staff protect and comfort me."
You know what I want from God when everything is going wrong? Hugs. Explanations. Lightning bolts directed at certain people (just being honest).
You know what I don't want? A rod. Or a staff. Those were hard sticks used to get sheep moving.
If the sheep was too close to the edge of a cliff, the shepherd is going to use these tools to make the sheep move somewhere safer. Same with a sheep wandering away from the safety of the flock. Or falling behind.
David was a shepherd. He spent a great deal of time trying to keep sheep (notoriously dumb animals), from getting themselves into trouble. Sometimes, he had to use these hard sticks to make them do what was in their best interest.
I bet no sheep ever turned around and said, "Hey, thanks David. You know, I definitely headed for trouble there. I appreciate the shoving and gentle whacks you were giving me there!"
No, I'm sure the sheep were a little ticked off. They didn't want Mr. Boss Guy poking them around with his sticks of authority.
But here David is saying, "God, you're doing something uncomfortable. Something I don't like. You're poking or whacking me with other people or situations...and that gives me comfort. Because if you weren't taking care of me, I'd be in REAL danger."
Man. That's not the magic prayer formula I'm looking for to get God to do exactly what I want him to do. But in the grand scheme of things, it's even better. It means God knows what he's doing, and that even the difficult times in my life are evidence of his love.
Listen, when things are at their worst, I get it that this is probably the last thing you want to hear. But when you're in a situation where you're desperately trying to find a foothold for your faith, see if this one helps you. It seemed to help David, and he was as emotional a guy as you'll find. He wrestled with tons of doubt, while also staying faithful to God. I think he's one of the best places to look when you've got a challenge to get past. After all, he's the one who is called "A man after God's own heart"
If he can have faith in the midst of the challenges he faced, I know I can too.