Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life
On this journey with the Shepherd King, David, we’ve trekked through fields and valleys and mountaintops to get to this final verse–to be reminded that Psalm 23 is a looking back. David gazes upon this life he has walked with his God and calls it good. The one who fought a giant, battled against armies all around him, lost children, and sinned greatly stares in the rearview mirror and sees only God’s mercy and goodness.
How many times in our own lives do we see God at work best by looking back?
At a recent women’s retreat, I heard a woman reflecting on the last few years. As she recited each dire circumstance, her smile grew wider–because she could see how God worked in and through each one. Then the dots connected and lights went on as she realized how much she had grown because of those difficult situations–because she had relied on God. This sweet woman allowed her mind’s eye to revisit the difficult years in order to see how God’s goodness and mercy had followed her. How He worked all things out for good. How He met her where she was and helped her mature–spiritually, emotionally.
And as she did, her joy exploded. Her faith for her current circumstances stabilized, anchoring on the truth that God never leaves her. That He is her means for navigating through all she faces. He’d done it in the past. He’ll do it again. And again. And again.
This is living with expectancy. When we put our faith in the Good Shepherd–the One before us, the One we follow–our hearts and minds and souls abound in trust that He also comes behind us with nothing but goodness and mercy.
Soaking in God’s Love
Do you remember those old bubble bath commercials? Calgon, take me away! The dailiness of life takes its toll. The challenges of the world’s chaos and people’s brokenness cause us to want to hide away. But a better option is to soak in God’s love.
Soaking requires full-body immersion. Not dipping a toe. Not standing in a shower. But slipping into a tub full of warmth that envelopes every part of us. Then we stay there, soaking–steeping ourselves in the love needed to replenish and restore our depleted selves.
God promises that His love for us will be unshakeable (Isaiah 54:10).
God demonstrated His love by sending Jesus to die for us (Romans 5:8).
God makes us alive in Christ because of His great love for us (Ephesians 2:4-5).
God’s love makes us more than conquerors, more than overcomers (Romans 8:35).
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them (1 John 4:16).
When we are rooted and established in God’s love, we have the power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep Christ’s love is; and when we know this love that surpasses knowledge–that has no words to describe it adequately–we are filled to the measure of all the fullness of God (paraphrase of Ephesians 3:17-19).
Paul’s language embodies abundance. Not shallow roots that come up easily, but roots that run in a million different ways at a depth that can’t be plumbed. Not a love that ebbs and flows like the tide, but love that is steady and so deep that we cannot see or fathom how far it goes. Not a little bit of God, but all of God.
All of God in us.
God dwells in us. His love flows through our veins. And His love is so perfect, so divine, so unconditional, so finite that an eternity of soaking in its depths wouldn’t be enough for us to exhaust its supply.
Friends, this is the love of our Good Shepherd. The One who created us. Who knows us by name. Who counts every hair on our heads. Who leads us to the greenest meadows and the freshest waters. Who goes before us preparing paths and tables. Who anoints our heads and fills our cups. THIS is the Shepherd who also hems us in from behind while simultaneously walking beside us (Psalm 139:5; Psalm 16:8).
This is the love available to each. of. us. This is the love that helps us trust that our Shepherd will never leave us. Never abandon us. NOT EVER. He loves us too much. Soak in that truth. Let it seep into every pore, every brain cell, every vein and muscle and tissue of your being SO THAT you will trust that His love for You is not only constant but only and ever full of goodness and mercy.
Share the Love
Phillip Keller describes sheep as the only livestock that can leave a field better than they found it. When they have a good shepherd who takes care to meet all their needs, fend off the wolves, and fight the pests and pestilence, the goodness they’ve been given is shared. They are natural weed-eaters. They clear the overgrown. They fertilize the sterile. They restore ravaged lands (p.159).
In other words, sheep pass on the goodness and mercy they’ve been given. And so must we.
We can share the love we’ve been soaking in with people around us, being the peace instead of the conflict, the hope instead of the negative pot-stirrers, the joy instead of the bitterness, the love instead of the hate.
“The only real, practical measure of my appreciation for the goodness and mercy of God is the extent to which I am, in turn, prepared to show goodness and mercy to others.”Keller, 162
There’s no fear in sharing the love we’ve been given because we know of its endless supply. There’s no hoarding it all for ourselves because we have been given so abundantly. There’s no waste when it comes to sharing God’s love because once we’ve sown its seed, we never know of the roots that grow unseen. We trust the outcome to God. We simply release with joy all the love we’ve been given, leaving the world better than we found it.
Friends, God’s goodness and mercy never cease. They’ll always be with us because God forever dwells with us and in us. When we begin to live from this place, our minds shift from scarcity to abundance. Our hearts fill to overflowing. Our souls pour out all that we’ve been given. Do you see the constancy of such love? Do you see how in the presence of our Good Shepherd we, the sheep, can find not only comfort but an outpouring of everything we could ever need? And how from that overflow we can spread that love across the fields of this earth? This lovely, eternal cycle is what we’ve been invited into. This holy, abiding relationship is what sustains such a constant flow of love and faith, of hope and joy.
So, let us never give up looking back to see all that God has done. Let us live in our current circumstances with a full trust that He remains with us as our Good Shepherd, offering us all we need–provision, protection, and a proliferation of life and love.
This Shepherd is worthy of our adoration. Our trust. Our abiding love. Let us follow well, full of expectancy for all He is and all He will do.
Today is a great day to enter into a prayer made famous by St. Patrick. To speak these words aloud builds our faith and anticipation of just how near He dwells:
Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
(taken from the prayer of St. Patrick’s Breastplate)
- Rhythms: Swaying to the rhythm of a song gives us a great picture of what it is we’re meant to do as we come into God’s presence to pray, to read His Word, to hear His voice, to just be… Some days hold more of these than others. Some seasons are packed full of such holy rhythms. Some moments are full on intercession while others are full of peaceful silence. What is your spirit yearning for today? What rhythms are pulling you toward Jesus? Enter in. And rest.
- Goodness, we’re nearly done memorizing Psalm 23. Next week we wrap up this series and this Psalm. Which means–this week we add the first half of verse 6 to our memory work. Sway with it as you recite, picturing the Good Shepherd stepping in time with you.
- Resources: I love sharing with you the books, podcasts, articles, and anything else that has inspired, encouraged, or taught me. These are humble offerings with no expectations.
- Chris Tomlin almost always makes our series playlists, and this playlist is no different. From his 2018 album, Holy Roar, Chris sings Psalm 23, emphasizing God’s goodness, love, and mercy. Allow the truths of these lyrics to pour over you like anointing oil!
- Phillip Keller’s book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23,* packs a punch with every chapter. I’d forgotten, since first reading this book, how the sheep pass on the good they’ve been given. What a gorgeous picture of how we’re meant to live in this world!
- Though they went unquoted in this post, Aimee Walker and JD Walt continue to inspire me with their own thoughts and writing. Thanks!!
- We’re a flock. We’re a fellowship of believers. We’re a community. Know that you are not alone. You’ll walk these paths with Christ at your side and your sisters hemmed around you.
- As you feel led, share in the comment section. Let us know how God is leading you. And how we can be praying for you. Ask questions. And share your thoughts.
- I hope you’ll invite someone to join our flock. All sheep need the Good Shepherd.