What do you think of when you hear someone say, “the grass is always greener on the other side”?
I know for myself those words bring to mind a picture of someone struggling on tippy toes to peek over a fence into the neighboring yard. That someone may have a beautiful property filled with water features and fruit trees, but his human nature is drawn to what is missing…a need he didn’t know existed until he looked over the fence and into his neighbor’s yard. And now discontentment is growing in his heart.
For the past few weeks the Lord has been challenging me with the truths found in Psalm 23…
1 “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. 3 He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 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. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Those verses sure don’t sound like the words of someone struggling with contentment, someone peeking over his neighbors fence to figure out what he’s missing out on. No, it’s rather the opposite. They speak of a deep set trust in the Lord and an understanding of His love and protection.
Verse 1 – Sheep trust their shepherd
The first part of verse one implies that because “The Lord is my Shepherd…” we are then His sheep. And this isn’t the first time we are called sheep in Scripture. Back then, sheep and shepherds were very well known and understood. I’m not sure everyone enjoyed being compared to sheep, but in context with who the Shepherd is, it was the best news anyone could receive. Sheep were very vulnerable to predators, and relied on their shepherds for protection, food and water. Night and day, sheep needed to be watched and cared for. In the same way, the Lord desires for us to look to Him to meet our needs, to find our contentment.
Once the truth that “The Lord is my shepherd…” started sinking in, it’s implications floored me. No matter how much I may think I know or how great my plans are, I am constantly in need of the guidance and protection of the Shepherd. And He longs to care for His sheep. He loves His sheep so much that He laid down His life for them.
Now take a look at the second part of that verse, “…I shall not want.”
Because the Lord is my shepherd, He provides everything I need. I don’t even have to want for something (what an amazing truth!!). Let me make a quick clarification here. I don’t believe David (the author of this psalm) is saying that we will never have wants, dreams or desires. Those are beautiful, often God-given and vital to becoming who God created us to be. I believe he is using want as a synonym to need, and God alone knows what we need. We need only to surrender to Him, and trust that His plans are for our good and His glory.
Verses 2-5 – The Shepherd is in control
Verses 2-5 remind me that it’s the Lord who is in control, not us. He knows we need rest and He will provide that for us. He alone restores our souls and leads us down roads for the sole reason of making us more like Himself and bringing glory to His name.
Life is not always lived on mountaintops, and He allows us to walk through hard valleys. The beauty in these dark seasons is that we don’t need to be afraid, because He isn’t only with us; He is also guiding and protecting us. He goes before and provides above and beyond for all of our needs. His provisions are greater than anything we can imagine, because He is the Author and Creator of life. He is the only one who will fulfill our needs.
Verse 6 – Live with an eternal perspective
The final verse of this Psalm is what hit home for me. Because “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want” (verse 1), no matter what is going on around me, “…goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (verse 6).
This doesn’t mean that life will be easy, more likely the opposite will be true. But as we cling to Him, meditate on His Word, spend time in prayer and seek fellowship with other believers, He will grow and strengthen us. He will guide us in how to follow His leading, how to hear His voice and how to trust Him to meet all of our needs.
He will teach us that our contentment is found in Him alone. We don’t deserve it, but that’s the beauty of God’s grace. We did nothing to deserve the gift of eternal life, but because of His love for us, we can confess our sins and accept this free gift of salvation; this gift of a relationship with the Creator of the Universe and the promise of eternity with Him in heaven.
When we see Jesus at the end of our life, He isn’t going to ask us what we did with our neighbor’s yards, He is just concerned with how we cared for our own property, what He entrusted us with. Were we good stewards of our time, treasures and talents? Or did we waste time looking over the fence and longing for what our neighbors had?
The Lord is our shepherd and He has a wonderful plan for our lives. But this life isn’t about our own comfort; it’s all about Him. It’s all about bringing Him glory in all we do. It’s all about trusting Him no matter what. And it’s all about holding what He’s entrusted to us with open hands and asking Him to help us use it to glorify Him for as along as we are here on earth.