Jesus, My Shepherd

Do you ever get the sense that God is good, but only to other people? Do you ever struggle to believe that God is with you, for you, and actively doing you good?

I do. I haven't suffered much, and yet when I experience pain and difficulty, when I wrestle with doubts and confusion, when things do not seem to be what they should, I often find myself wondering where God is. He feels distant from me, a God whose glory, joy, hope, and peace seem stuck in worship songs and Bible verses, miles away from little old messy me flailing around in the muck.

In those moments, I usually can't help but think that if God truly loved me, He would make my struggles go away or, even better, that He would have prevented them from happening in the first place.

Enter this morning. In the midst of my sadness at the seeming absence of God in some challenging circumstances in my life right now, God reminded me of Psalm 23, the first set of verses I ever memorized. I was particularly struck by verse 4 - "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me."

And I was reminded that God's presence is known not because He prevents us from facing challenging circumstances, but rather because He leads us into them and through them, like a shepherd who must occasionally lead his sheep through rocky terrain on the way to greener pastures. Our every step is designed and guided by our sovereign God for our good, and the very fact that I feel His staff prodding me down paths that are not always easy should comfort me.

He is with me. He knows what He is doing. This path is the best one for me, and He cares enough to keep me on it even when it hurts. While I would sacrifice growth for comfort and ease, He is not so short-sighted. He loves me too much for that.