Psalm 23 – He Leads
March 30, 2020
The first time I remember really crying was when I was a sophomore in high school.
I remember the oddest details of that season. I remember what I was wearing.
I remember the smell of the room we all gathered in.
I remember the feeling of laying in bed trying to breathe.
I remember feeling like someone had placed a bowling ball on my 15 year old chest — I. could. not. breathe.
My grandma was diagnosed with cancer a couple of years earlier.
Grandma was the kind of woman that, if you knew her, you loved her. She was the kind of grandma that whenever there was a family dinner she would insist on me eating to the point of gluttony because (in her words), I was “too skinny.”
Grandma was the kind of grandma who would make me wait a full hour after eating before she would let me go swimming. Because, in her words, “I don’t want you to cramp up and drown.”
Grandma was the kind of grandma who, when we went miniature golfing as kids would promise me ice cream if could “only beat grandma.” And then Grandma was the kind of Grandma who would throw the game just so I could always beat Grandma.
The reason the cancer came as such a shock was because Grandma was the kind of grandma who was overly healthy. I suppose she read somewhere that garlic and vinegar were healthy, so Grandma would … drink them. Add that to the smell of her perfume, and, needless to say, Grandma was the kind of grandma that had her own brand of scent.
But, most importantly, Grandma was the kind of grandma who loved the Lord with all of her heart. Which, I think, is why I was so angry when Grandma got the diagnoses. She, of all people, was not supposed to get cancer.
In the Bible, there is a place that people would often associate with struggles/anger/fear/temptation/trial/formation. That place was the desert. We go through seasons of desert, don’t we? Nobody wants to go to the desert, but it is in the desert that we learn to trust the voice of God.
At my Grandma’s funeral we read the words of Psalm 23 (in the King James translation of course). Psalm 23 begins like this:
Psalm 23V1-3 (King James Version)
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.
He leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul.
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Psalm 23 is a desert song.
Bethlehem, the homeland of its author David, is in the desert.
The “green pastures” of the desert are not the knee-deep-opening-shot-of-The-Sound-of-Music pastures, but just a few tufts along the side of a rock.
The “still waters” do not come at the convenience of a faucet.
The “paths of righteousness” are not 5-lane highways, but narrow paths along the edge of a cliff where one false step could be fatal.
The green pastures … the still waters … the paths of righteousness are not about abundance, but about “just enough.” God teaches us in the desert to trust him for just enough. The desert is about learning that we will not make it if we don’t learn to follow our shepherd.
A few months before she died, I remember sitting in church with Grandma. We had to sit in the back because every step she made … hurt. The chemotherapy had been really hard on her — and the lady sitting next to me looked very little like my Grandma.
And then the pastor said, “Please stand as we sing, ‘It is Well with My Soul.”
And I remember thinking to myself: “I will not. I will not sing this song … because it is not well with my soul. So, in an act of defiance, I sat in the back of church with my arms crossed, refusing to sing. It was not well with my soul.
And then I remember … I so vividly remember … as I sat with my arms crossed and a scowl on my face, the last verse started. I remember turning to my Grandma. Grandma, with every ounce of strength left in her, stood up and began singing from the top of her lungs:
“And Lord haste the day when my faith shall be sight. The clouds be rolled back as a scroll. The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend. Even so, it is well with my soul.”
And, I remember realizing that, if my Grandma can still sing, then so can I.
You see, my faith was weak that day … I needed to borrow Grandma’s.
Pray today that God would strengthen your faith in him.
Pray today that He would teach you how to trust him in this desert.
Pray today that you would see him out in front, leading.
Pray today that your faith may help someone else sing.
Pray today that, if you are struggling to believe, God would send someone to help you sing again.
And, at some point in the day, take a moment and play the song: “It is Well with my Soul” (there is an older version, and a newer version — I suggest listening to them BOTH).
pastor tim wilson