Help me, Brother...Sister...
We can all have struggles in our lives, and as Christians, we all need encouragement. Even when things are going well for us in terms of our physical situation and personal happiness - our job’s going well, we’ve got a good wife/husband and so on, we still need encouragement. We need to keep on seeking God and wanting to please him. Perhaps you are finding evangelism difficult. In this case, you need to look to God for the desire and strength to evangelise.
1The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
2He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
4Even though I walk through the deepest darkness, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5You prepare a table before me, in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Reflections on Psalm 23
You will probably remember that the image on our home page is of a boy carrying a lamb. I love that image, and it is so helpful when considering this psalm. Whether we are struggling with life or are quite comfortable, as Christians we know that we are carried through life by God. We depend on him, in our lives now and for our future hope. With the first verse of Psalm 23, I have to stop to consider the meaning of these words for me today. There have been plenty of times that I have been in want for different things, and yet I still find truth in this verse. Because God is with me and is carrying me, I have the essentials that I need - the spiritual security that he provides.
How do I come to terms with my times of suffering, times when it has sometimes felt like God has left me and I have been all alone? Well, whilst as Christians we are not immune to suffering, God can draw positive things out of our suffering (Romans 8:28). Even if this does not make full sense of our suffering, it does bring a positive dynamic from it, as to some extent it cancels out the sense of waste we often feel from “the years that the locusts have eaten” (Joel 2:25).
I have heard may people say that we suffer for a reason. They claim that there is a purpose if we suffer, and if we cannot see that purpose at the time, we will be able to look back and see God at work for our good through the suffering. As I have suggested, I both agree and disagree with this. From personal experience, I can say that great suffering I have been through seemed senseless at the time. Looking back, I thought - what was the point in that? If only so and so would have happened, or I would have chosen to live here rather than here - I would have been spared so much suffering.
But then looking back I saw that through the suffering, some of my fatal character and spiritual flaws were sorted out - refined. The consequences of not going through some of my suffering would have been worse. I could see how some of my attitudes and expectations about having a marital relationship, and its place in my life would have wrecked any chance of a healthy relationship. However, again I repeat, there will not always be an obvious purpose to suffering - if you cannot find one, you are to be both commended and encouraged: you need all the more faith to trust in God and not give up on your faith.
The verse from Joel (2:25) promises that God can “make things back to us”. This is not to say, of course, that God has orchestrated our suffering in the first place, or that better times in themselves cancel the reality of the past out, or heal our hurts. No, God recognises and respects our suffering, whether we ourselves had any part to play in its cause or not.
Also, try to imagine what it would be like if we did not even have God in those difficult times. It may be that as I have, you have felt very alone during difficult times, as if God has abandoned you. However, despite our feelings, we know that God is always with us. Even non-Christians can take comfort that God was/is there for them at low points. Even for people who do not know God, out of his love he is there wanting to come into new relationship with them, caring about their suffering. However we have felt at times, without God with us, we would have felt much worse, and would have had no hope at all.
Verses 2 and 3 of Psalm 23 talk of how God is a Shepherd to us. He provides for us, and cares for our well-being. Again, on the big question of why at times it seems that this fails to happen, even when we are faithful to God, I have a comment. God’s love does not allow him to abandon us or cut himself off from our suffering. He cares about our suffering, and in his will would rather prevent it. However, for whatever the reasons, we live in a bad world, where everything is negatively affected by that badness.
God wants to lead you through your bad times. He can hear your prayers and will answer; he wants to bring healing. God wants us to live righteously because that is the way to true freedom. It is the way to know him, “the truth”, in a ever fuller sense. As Jesus says in John - “You will know the truth (him), and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31).
Verse 3 ends with “For his name’s sake”. It is in God’s very nature to be perfect and holy. Therefore, God is as such, compelled to encourage us as much as he is able to do so (without forcing us), to live in a way that pleases him.
I have reflected many a time on the forth verse of this psalm. I have been in that place of deep darkness where I am afraid of different things, worried about my present situation or the future. There are indeed dark places, which can seem to trap us. However, see God as walking, or even running, with you through that horrible valley. You don’t need to be afraid of whatever you see or feel, because he is there to confront it with you. His presence right there with you can bring comfort, as well a hope of better thing to come.
Verses 5 and 6 talk of better times in the future, and of God’s faithfulness. Even in the midst of difficult times, he has a plan to see us be happy, and recovered from our burdens. By God’s power, and through the victory of Christ on the cross over sin and death, we can know freedom and life - and hope. He is ready to reward those who are faithful - and their actions are never hidden from him.
The truths that I have discussed from Psalm 23 apply just as much when life is going well. We have God as our strength and reference point in a dark world, and we can see and appreciate his goodness to us in tangible ways. For this we should be grateful. It is our responsibility to communicate to other sheep, calling them towards him and sharing his love in genuine ways with them.
As the parable of the Good Samaritan illustrates (Luke 10: 25-37), to be right with God we need to love God, and also those around us who are in need. We cannot just ignore peoples’ need and get away with it. There are needs which are often hidden from view. Unless someone has the courage to tell another that they are suffering in some way, for example, from the effects of hurt stemming from past sexual abuse, it can be hard to tell that anything is wrong.
It seems that some Christians are just not bothered about other people. They selfishly live their lives in comfort, and are not really concerned to even think about how others people are feeling, or what they are going through. Maybe if they bothered to look, they would see the hurt in the eyes of others, and would start to build friendships with those in need and offer support. Let us not look upon people who have personal struggles as being weak sheep. We can all get wounded by life - some of us are more fortunate than others in avoiding pitfalls or experiencing setbacks.
This is the stuff that Church should be about. Let us look inside our own Church community for those in need. Also let us look outside the church, to welcome wounded people into our midst, sharing the love and the hope of Christ with them. May we as the Church, truly be a healing fellowship.
WARP TO TOP!