Friday, February 6, 2015

Green Pastures

"The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever."

Psalm 23.

The prevailing theme this Psalm is peace.  I truly think that there is no greater gift than peace from God.  In this world, it's hard to trust and have peace.  I pray daily for God to give me peace about everything that's going on. I need him to lead me.  I need him to protect me.

Lately, my battle has been awaiting notification from the National Merit Foundation regarding whether or not I became a finalist.  My full ride to Liberty hinges on this, and it's been a stressful wait. I had thought that I was receiving notification on Tuesday.  Now, I learn that it could be four or more days until I hear back.  It's becoming harder and harder as the days drag by and I still have not received any word. It feels like everything hinges on this, and I can't wait know a little more of what's coming this fall. Many other things have fallen through, and it's clear that God has a hand in it all.  I can't wait to see what he's bringing this all to.

But, as much as I don't like it, I'm being forced to wait.  So, in this wait, I turn to scripture, because it's the only thing that truly helps lately.

I love how verse 2 of this Psalm says that "he makes me lie down in green pastures." To me, green pastures sound heavenly.  Bright.  Safe.  Happy. Full of life.  That is what God desires for us.  But, we don't always want his plan.  We reject his way and do it ourselves.  Sometimes, he intervenes strongly and makes us "lie down in green pastures" by manipulating situations to lead us certain ways.  I can see him doing that in my life right now.  We may not always be happy about it at the time, but in the end, his plan is always perfect and righteous.

But the thing I love most about this Psalm is just how much you can hear love and care ooze out of every word.  For me, it's impossible to read it and not picture God as a loving caretaker.  To those who feel that God is cruel and heartless, read this.  How can the Lord not be kind?  He is a gentle shepherd.  His desire is to care for us, to lead us to peaceful waters, to give us green pastures.  Even in the midst of waiting and struggle, he loves us more than anything.

And there's this reoccurring theme of guidance.  For me, I picture a father holding the hand of his young child and leading them along.  As a child, it was hard to feel afraid when with my father.  I held his hand and nothing could touch me.  Is that not the way that God loves us?  He loves me even more than my earthly father.  Surely he holds my hand and guides me along also.

Through good and bad, he holds onto us.  Even when we try to do our own thing, he does not let go of our hands.  It is said in Romans 8 that "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

In the valley of the shadow of death, he is protecting me.

In the presence of stress and trouble, he is there.

In times of waiting and anxiety, he knows the future.

When I cry out for help and guidance, he has my hand.

When I try to do it alone, when I make mistakes, when I fall, when I forget to call upon him, he is still there.

Nothing can separate me from the love of Christ.  Nothing in all creation can ever take me away from him.  Because, after everything, I'm still his daughter.

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