by Pam Farrel
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in need. Psalm 23:1 NASB
I am a true Bo Peep. I grew up on a Suffolk sheep farm in Idaho. So when I read Psalm 23, it is personal, encouraging, and comforting. Like most of the world, you may also need comfort or encouragement in your own life right now. There are a few qualities of your Good Shepherd that might encourage you, especially if you are feeling like you are traveling through the “valley of the shadow of death”.
The Shepherd is Personal
The Psalmist declares “the Lord is my shepherd” because the relationship between a lamb and a Shepherd can be close and compassionate. My first 4-H lamb was a “bummer”, meaning the mother had rejected or abandoned her own offspring. These kinds of lambs need extra attention, so I fed my little lambie with a bottle twice a day, holding her in my arms like a baby. I carded her wool, I hand feed her grain, I walked her, and yes, I talked to her. On cold nights, I tucked her into a warm pen, and if I heard howling coyotes, I got up and went out to check on her. I also named her, “Bunny” because when she was not in my arms, she would delight herself jumping from rock to rock in our pasture. Ours was an “everywhere that Pammy went her lamb was sure to go” kind of relationship.
The Shepherd is a Protector
I picture my granddad and brother as a definition of a protective good shepherd. Ravenous coyotes, wolves and wild dogs roamed the high desert of our family farm. These savage animals would attack and kill whole flocks of sheep in a single night. To keep our sheep safe, we armed them with bells collars. If we heard an occasional gentle chime, our sheep were grazing calmly but if we heard a cacophony of loud jingling, we knew the wild dogs were near by threatening an attack.
To protect the sheep, the men in my family would post themselves in the pasture with the sheep. They would wrap themselves in a down sleeping bag with their “rod and staff” within arm’s reach. It was a cold, uncomfortable, thankless job, but it saved the lives of the entire flock. To this day, when I picture my God as my Good Shepherd, I see him as my strong, powerful, and attentive protector.
The Shepherd is a Provider
When I read, “He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul,” that is my upbringing. I would often walk barefoot through the deep, lush, green grass of the pasture, as the sheep serenely grazed. I would take a blanket, a Bible, and lie down to spend quiet hours communing with God. I might walk over to the creek and sit on the simple wooden plank to rest quietly, dipping my toes into the cool stream. This was my place of solace and restoration, far away from the chaos that my alcoholic, raging, earthly father might be creating at home. To this day, an open meadow, or trickling brook, reminds me of the restorative presence of the Good Shepherd, even in the midst of chaos.
The Shepherd Is a Pursuer
As I have followed my Good Shepherd, I have seen how “goodness and mercy “has surely followed me the days of my life. One could phrase the meaning of “goodness and mercy” as “certainly what is good, pleasant, agreeable, beneficial, desirable, beautiful and best as well as God’s faithful, loyal, lovingkindness will pursue you.” Wow! Our Good shepherd pursues us to give his faithful love and all things beautiful and beneficial.
With the Shepherd, we can walk THROUGH the darkest valley and not tremble, because the Good Shepherd sees, knows, cares, and prepares hope and help for each and every one of his sheep…including you!
Find a wool blanket, spread it on some green grass, near some still water, (or a comfortable, cozy space) then open your Bible to let the Great Shepherd send some goodness and mercy your way.
This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).
About the author: Pam Farrel is still a shepherdess at heart, however instead of living on her family farm, she now shepherds people’s hearts and relationships by speaking and teaching God’s goodness and mercy as Co-Director of Love-Wise. She is the author of 52 books including Discovering Hope in the Psalms: A Creative Bible Study Experience.
Pam and Bill are the bestselling authors of Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti (and small group DVD series); Single Men Are Like Waffles, Single Women Are Like Spaghetti; and the teen version: Guys are Waffles, Girls are Spaghetti.
Join the conversation: What other metaphors in Scripture about God bring you joy?