I remember my girl saying to me a long time ago, her face streaked with tears, that she wished God didn’t love her quite so much, because she was tired of all these lessons of growth. I grimaced in agreement. on the inside, because who hasn’t felt on occasion that following Jesus takes you to some really tough places? It is the nature of the clay to wish that the Potter would stop pounding and molding for awhile…just let you lie there in a peaceful immobile lump, doing whatever it is that clay does. The fallacy of course, is in thinking that we would be happier on our own, doing what we want, instead of what the King wants….and isn’t that exactly the false thinking that got Adam and Eve into this whole mess in the Beginning? It’s just as foolish as thinking that if we obey God and do all the right things, life will be simple and happy as a result. We just can’t seem to stop trying to figure out how to make life easier, better, more satisfying for ourselves without having to trust God’s plans for us. Guess it depends what you are looking for in the way of goodness.
CS Lewis pointed out: “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak.” While we are planting our feet firmly in the soil and looking for the things that make life here better, the Musician-King David writes simply,“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He refreshes my soul.” (Psalm 23:1-3a) David’s shepherding heart understood God’s sacrificial love for His sheep. He saw the faithfulness that is new every morning and isn’t afraid to do the hard things. He tasted for himself that the green grass of this world only goes so far, and what the king-who-has-everything needs most is to stand in the presence of God’s wild goodness; to live safe under the wings of the Almighty; to be washed clean in God’s ocean depths of forgiveness. We all need to come to the same conclusion about our heart’s desire, one way or another, if we are going to find peace with the unstoppable hurricane force of God’s love. One of King David’s musicians wrote his own confession this way: “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:25-26)
And if being in His care feels like we are ” bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy” at times, we have His promise that we will make it through. “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” (Isaiah 43:2) Life hurts for everyone, because this earth is damaged in a million cruel ways. The difference for us who follow the Shepherd is that over and over again God promises that He is with us and will not let us be destroyed in any way that matters. “I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)….”“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands…” (Isaiah 49:15-16)….”Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified…for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)
Francis Thompson’s classic poem The Hound of Heaven echoes the shepherd’s simple psalm, the way he pictures God chasing him relentlessly through all the days of his life, Love never giving up until his soul gives up running, and is Home and safe. It is both a comforting and a terrifying picture, depending on where you are, perhaps. And I have seen that God does not only run after the fleeing, and the wandering, but He also runs after the weak and faltering. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me”— chasing me, pursuing me, hunting me– “all the days of my life,” because I belong to the Good Shepherd and He does not give up on any of His sheep, ever.
So on days when I can’t see anything clearly through the wind and the storm, if all I have is the faintest whisper… “find me”…that is enough of a prayer, because the One who leads me on, who is the Beginning and the End of all things, will also never stop following close behind with His wild Goodness.
“When I said, ‘My foot is slipping,’ your unfailing love, Lord, supported me.
When anxiety was great within me, Your consolation brought me joy.” (Psalm 94:18-19)
“All which I took from thee, I did’st but take,
Not for thy harms,
But just that thou might’st seek it in my arms.
All which thy child’s mistake fancies as lost,
I have stored for thee at Home.” (The Hound of Heaven, Francis Thompson)