The Lord Is My Shepherd

The 23rd Psalm is not just one of the most beautiful passages of scripture, it is one of the world's loveliest poems. From start to finish, it is a model of reassurance. And yet today I admit that it is causing me some trouble. Yes, I acknowledge that the Lord is my shepherd, and I am but a sheep in the pasture of God. And yet I question where I and the rest of the flock are being led. Well, not so much the destination, but the path. I know where people of faith will end up, but why must the road be so difficult?

Yes, the Lord is our Good Shepherd. But many who trust in the Lord are being confronted with deadly illness. Others with the loss of the means to feed themselves and their families. Others with the loss of businesses they've dedicated their life's savings to create or maintain. And everyone else with isolation and fear. Is the Lord our shepherd even through a pandemic?

I suspect that the 23rd Psalm was written not during such a time as this, but was written in retrospect. The psalmist went through extreme difficulty, and afterward was able to look back on all they'd been through and affirm that—even if they didn't realize it at the time—the Lord had not just been by their side, but had led them to where they needed to be. So it is with this kind of faith in the future that I, too, can say that the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want (Psalm 23:1).

My prayer today is a 19th century hymn which asks not to avoid problems, but for the strength to make it through them:
Hear, O God, the prayer I offer—
not for ease that prayer shall be,
but for strength, that I may ever
live my life courageously.

Not forever in green pastures
do I ask my way to be,
but the steep and rugged pathway
may I tread rejoicingly.

Not forever by still waters
would I idly rest and stay,
but would smite the living fountains
from the rocks along the way.

Be my strength in hours of weakness,
in my wanderings be my guide;
through endeavor, failure, danger,
be the shepherd by my side.
✙ Love M. Willis, 1859 (adapted)

I pray this in the Name of Christ, who taught me to pray: Our Father...