Every Soul Needs a Shepard

Psalm 23 is a vivid picture of what our lives can be when we live under God’s shepherding care. As a king, David recognized that some of his greatest revelations of God came to him long before he carried the responsibility of leading a nation. As a young shepherd he cared for his sheep. He provided for his sheep. He fought for his sheep. He protected his sheep. And he came to realize through the ups and downs of his own journey that God was a Greater Shepherd, doing all of that and more for him.

How is your relationship with the shepherd?

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. Do you trust him to provide for you? Or are you worrying about the basic needs in your life?

He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads beside quiet waters. He restores my soul. Are you taking time to stop, rest, and know that He is in control of the details of your life? Or is your pace frenetic, driven by a subconscious fear that you might not be able to get it all done or hold it all together?

As always, Jesus is our great example. Not only does he serve as our Good Shepherd, but during his life on earth he lived under the care of the Shepherd himself. I love this example he set for us during one of the most intense moments of his ministry.

Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself (John 6.15).

Even when he was under attack, and the future seemed uncertain, Jesus paused to follow his Father to the green pastures, the still waters, and the stability his soul craved.

I’ve been challenged by Jesus’ example in four specific ways.

Jesus withdrew to refocus. He knew the people had an agenda. They wanted to make him a king. But Jesus knew their political agenda would be a distraction from his mission. Every leader will face distractions as they serve people with competing expectations. The quiet waters help us identify distracting priorities, surrender them, and refocus on the main thing.

Jesus withdrew to a specific place. He had his mountain. For you, it may be a beach, or a bench under your favorite tree in the park. Where is the place that feels good to your soul? I like to go to the Jersey shore, where I can sit on the beach and walk the boardwalk. There’s something about the power and consistency of ocean waves that remind me how big God is and how small my problems are in comparison.

Jesus withdrew repeatedly. He went to his mountain “again.”  Rest and reflection should be a regular rhythm in our lives, not an afterthought or random retreat. When is the last time you withdrew? What would it look like for you to block out a day this summer to break away and sit in stillness with the shepherd? Whatever you can do, do it, and then repeat it.

Jesus withdrew alone. This may be a challenge if you’re an extrovert. But every one of us, no mater our personality, need the quiet, peace, and perspective that only comes from solitude. Sometimes it’s only when every other voice disappears that we can reacquaint ourselves with the voice of the Father and the true condition of our souls.

Finally, here are a few practical tips if you’re fired up and ready to schedule a few hours alone in your happy place.

  • Read the Bible. Pick a character or a book and really meditate on it. One time I spent a morning slowly reading through the life of Elijah in 1 Kings 17-19. I could relate with him and realized I wasn’t the first person to feel what I was feeling.
  • Get outside. Take a walk. Go for a run. Hike. Skip some rocks. Feel the wind in your face and the sand in your toes. Watch the sunset.
  • Maybe it’s singing. Maybe it’s journaling. Maybe it’s just thinking. But stop producing and just connect with God.
  • Take a nap. It’s more spiritual than you think! Seriously, a nap may be the best way to get rid of the guilt we feel if we’re not constantly getting stuff done.
  • Ask yourself some deep questions, and journal the answers. Spend some time reflecting.
  • Listen to a life-changing sermon. What’s the most encouraging message you’ve ever heard? Take it with you and listen to it again.
  • Meditate on the cross. Remember what Jesus did for you, and really embrace the reality of it again.

I’m officially giving you permission to get out your calendar and schedule a day to sit down with the shepherd. Your team will like you better. Your kids will like you better. Your spouse will be glad you did. You may even like yourself a little better!

And at the end you’ll be relieved to make this important discovery.

The shepherd is all you need.

Brad Leach