Nothing calms a sheep down better than the sudden appearance of the shepherd. Whether it’s busy butting other sheep in a power struggle, agitated by hunger or thirst, frightened by some danger (real or imagined), or is cast down, lying upside down in a helpless state with no hope of righting itself … whatever is happening to make the sheep feel miserable, that feeling is dissolved the moment it senses the arrival of its trusted deliverer. Although nothing about its situation has changed, the sheep knows one thing: things CAN happen when the shepherd is near. No longer alone in its anguish, it can relax. The shepherd will take care of its needs and protect it from all harm.
There’s a good reason why people are compared to sheep in the Bible. (See Psalm 100, Isaiah 53, Jeremiah 50, Ezekiel 34, Matthew 9, John 10, 1 Peter 2, etc.) We are just as helpless, vulnerable, given to irrational fears, and capable of making our situation far worse by taking things into our own hands as they are.
When we’ve been following Jesus for a while, we recognize His voice. We can sense when He’s near. And we find comfort in Him being with us. Yet … how often do we struggle on and on, in blind desperation, not thinking to stop and call out for His help?
Because the Holy Spirit is resident in us, we are in God’s presence all the time. As the psalmist wrote, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” (Psalm 139:7). As His children we are never separated from Him, not even for a moment. But when we get agitated it’s easy to forget that awesome truth. While a human shepherd can physically leave his sheep as he searches out new pastureland or tends to other chores, our Shepherd never leaves our side. “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” is His promise (Deut. 31:6; Hebrews 13:5).
Of course it’s one thing to acknowledge this in our head and another thing to experience it. When things start to spin out of control and we become angry, stressed out, or anxious we forget about our Shepherd. Because we feel all alone we begin to act out of our own strength, figuring it’s up to us to straighten things out. God is off tending to some other chore, we think, so we can’t wait on Him. Yet all our efforts end in more frustration and anxiety.
But when He appears, when His manifest presence is finally seen, peace returns. Our souls are calmed by knowing He’s near. Resolution to our sticky situation may not come immediately. We may face the same challenges and setbacks as before. The difference is not in the circumstances … the difference is in our state of mind.
THE SHEPHERD IS HERE! He knows what I need. He has what I need. I can turn this over to Him and trust Him to make it right.
There’s a popular Christian song written by Paul Baloche and Brenton Brown entitled “Hosanna (Praise is Rising)” that reminds us of the difference the Shepherd makes.
“Praise is rising, eyes are turning to You, we turn to You.
Hope is rising, hearts are yearning for You, we long for You.
‘Cause when we see You we find strength to face the day,
in your presence all our fears are washed away, washed away.”
As the sheep of His pasture, we have so much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving season. Perhaps the most life-changing truth revealed in Scripture is the gift of His presence. When we recognize Him bringing deliverance to whatever perplexing situation we face, we find the strength and hope we need to move forward. Our fears flee as One greater enters the scene. He makes all the difference.
Let this reality bathe your heart in loving gratitude for our Savior and Shepherd. Give Him full control of whatever you’re struggling with and watch in amazement as He brings His order into your chaos. Thank Him for the “peace that passes all understanding” when He is near.
This peace is something the world cannot experience. Jesus told us, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). Only God’s children, among all the people on the earth, have been given this precious gift. So take a moment to thank Him for blessing you with it. And ask Him to help you access His peace more often. It’s as close as the mention of His name. We only need to recognize the reality of His abiding presence.
Have you thanked your Good Shepherd today? His comforting presence is something we can celebrate all year long!!