“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” (Psalm 23:1, ESV)
I shut my laptop and let out a huge sigh. My writing project wasn’t going well, and I felt like a car stuck in mud, spinning my wheels. I was disappointed – mostly in myself. And then came the stream of negative thoughts.
I can’t even finish this project. I’ll never be a good enough writer.
My expectations were high, and my performance wasn’t measuring up. And I suspected my disappointment was spilling over to my husband, as I caught myself being impatient and critical with him.
Lord, I need help! What is going on with me?
Even as I called out to Him in frustration, I sensed Him telling me to Stop. To stop the stream of negative thoughts and spend time with Him, listening.
And when I did, He gently prompted me to return to a passage in the Bible that I knew well -Psalm 23.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want” (vs. 1).
The opening statement of Psalm 23; a short verse that I could easily overlook. Yet God used it to show me what was under the surface of my disappointment.
I had always pictured David as a shepherd, and never thought of him as speaking from a sheep’s perspective. David was declaring himself a sheep in the Lord’s flock. Needy and vulnerable. Something I typically don’t like to be.
“I shall not want.”
Not lacking for provision or well-being. Content.
Sheep in the care of a good shepherd can trust the shepherd to provide, protect, and lead them. They are secure and content with how the Shepherd cares for them. But sheep don’t always live in that contentment, and neither do we.
“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned -every one- to his own way;” (Isaiah 53:6, ESV)
In the wonderful book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, W.Phillip Keller tells a story about one of his ewes. She was one of the strongest and smartest of his flock, with an excellent coat of wool. Yet she was always restless, searching for ways to get through the fence to feed on the other side. When she broke through the fence, she ended up feeding on unhealthy grass. And eventually her lambs followed her example and did the same.
Was I acting like that restless ewe? I had to admit, yes.
I let the high expectations I had for myself pull me away from the Shepherd. I falsely believed He was disappointed in me, just as I was. I was looking for contentment in productivity and achievements, instead of living from a position of contentment in the arms of the Good Shepherd, Jesus.
Maybe you can relate to this struggle. But there is good news! Jesus is the Good Shepherd that comes after His wayward sheep, drawing us near. And He desires us to stay close to Him, because He knows that true contentment of the soul doesn’t depend on our successes or failures. It flows from the assurance that our lives and ultimate well-being are secure with Jesus.
So let us encourage one another to set our hearts and minds on Him daily. Then we can live out our unique calling from a position of contentment, no matter what disappointments come our way. Amen!