“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God…” Ps.42:5
At 4:45 am, my eyes don’t work so good – nor my brain, nor anything else attached to me. Which put me at a great disadvantage one morning as I found myself driving home alone, in the dark, after dropping my husband off at the airport.
I knew the road well, I had driven it hundreds of times. I could drive it in my sleep – or so I thought.
In the dark, it’s harder, don’t you think? Familiar landmarks look different devoid of light – or maybe it’s just me, but after a couple of confident (ho-hum I know exactly where I’m going) turns, things began to look very unfamiliar. Very.
How could this have happened so quickly? Five minutes ago I pulled away from the airport and now I’m driving through streets that are quite often on the news – and I don’t mean good news, either.
Long story short – no thanks to my eyesight, (which has reached the appropriate age at which, the navigation map on the dashboard is exactly the blurred spot between my long distance vision and my reading glasses), or my instincts, I had successfully turned a 25 minute drive into an hour and a half – and a headache.
I wanted to go back to see where I had made my wrong turn, but I didn’t want that to turn into a daytrip. I was too tired to pack a lunch.
I needed better navigation than I could give myself.
And don’t we all? Don’t we all? Need better navigators than ourselves? If we could just admit that sooner, we might not get as turned around as we do.
And I know we could turn this into a “Jesus is my Navigator” kind of thing – but really, He knew we would need something so much more. Because a navigator only shows us the way – we needed Someone to be The Way. A navigator can help show us a course – but we needed the One who planned the course.
So because He is who He is – instead of a navigator, He chose to be a Shepherd.
Which this, too self-confident, half-blind, directionally challenged, easily confused in the dark, sheep really needed. A Shepherd – who loves me in spite of all the aforementioned issues.
It’s easy to just gloss over that title – maybe because most of us do not personally, and do not even know anyone, who owns sheep. Studying shepherds? It will change your life.
I love that a shepherd will begin talking to a lamb the moment it is born, carefully, tenderly – because that lamb’s life is going to depend on his ability to distinguish between his shepherd’s voice, and all the other sounds out there.
I love the way the good shepherd is always among his sheep, keeping a watchful eye, because sheep get distracted, or make wrong turns, or just flat disobey, and in those cases, things can get life-threatening. It is easy to fall down on paths that have not been approved by the shepherd – you know, those ones we find ourselves on because we think we know better.
Sometimes, the wool of the sheep has become so heavy on their backs that the burden is too much to bear, especially if wet, the moisture weighs heavy in thick wool and causes a stumble.
When a sheep falls, he is helpless, he is scared, and he could be dead within hours if not rescued. His friends are helpless to assist. They can only stand by and watch powerless to do anything about the predicament. All they, or anyone, can do is call for the shepherd at the top of their voices so that he can rescue this one. So they begin crying out for the shepherd. (Even sheep have prayer partners.)
A good shepherd knows instantly by the frenzied bleating that something is amiss. He runs to the hurting sheep knowing that every second counts in being able to save one of his own. But, he cannot just rush in and put him on his feet. It is a process that requires deep love and understanding, patience and fortitude and it must be done for each sheep every time it is cast down.
He begins calling out lovingly, or singing, as he makes his way to the downcast sheep. It calms and reassures that help is on the way. After a fall, the insides of a sheep begin to be displaced. If the shepherd were to yank them up quickly, he could cause their death instead of prevent it.
So, he tenderly begins to massage the belly of the sheep to help right the organs that have been misplaced by the gases building up inside the abdomen, then gently moves to the legs, so that by massaging them he can restore their feeling and allow the sheep to have sure footing when he stands him up.
If a sheep fights him – it is almost impossible for the shepherd to help him.
When he rights the sheep, he does not let him go. He stands over the sheep with one leg on either side of him. It is the strength of the shepherd that keeps him standing.
Softly the shepherd examines this one he loves, to determine the cause of being “cast”. It is the Shepherd’s job to not just save the sheep, but also to prevent it from happening again. He is a diligent and loving shepherd whose heart is captured by his sheep.
If there is a wound that needs to be dressed, it is done then. If the sheep is too weak to walk, the shepherd carries him in His arms. If the burden of his wool is the culprit, the shepherd will begin to shear the sheep to free him of the weight and with each pass of the shears, the sheep becomes lighter, more free, and by the time the shearing is finished, the sheep feels so light they try to leap for joy and dance in the green grass as the shepherd watches to make sure they are strong enough to go on.
Maybe you, like King David and me, have found yourself “downcast.”
Maybe your burdens have become too heavy. Perhaps you have ventured onto a path that was not approved by the Shepherd, and now find yourself, like I have before, lost and scared, and tripping over rocks.
Can you tune your ear to recognize the voice of your Shepherd as He calls out to you? He has a song for you, it speaks of healing and wholeness.
Could you, for a moment, allow yourself to feel His hands as they gently pull you to your legs – don’t worry – He is not going to let you go – you are His prized beloved.
Perhaps the Shepherd has a shearing in mind, to relieve you of a weight that is breaking your back. He can cut off that burden of guilt, He can clip that load of hopelessness, He can take away any encumbrance that is too much too bear. Just between us sheep, when you let Him, it makes you feel like dancing and leaping.
A downcast sheep is safe ONLY in the hands of the Shepherd who knows that it will take time to lovingly coax it back to health. As long as He’s got it — there is hope.
The secret to recovering from being downcast – is not dependent on friends or self – it is only dependent on how quickly we allow the Shepherd to do what He does best – redeem us from ourselves. And the next time you begin to feel downcast – change your direction to UPcast. I guarantee the journey from pasture to pasture is safer when all eyes are on the Shepherd.
Listen My Beloved…
The Good Shepherd loves His sheep more than life itself.
No wait—The Good Shepherd loves His sheep more than HIS life itself.