Today I have a guest post from author Jenny Smith who has written a wonderful book called, "Seriously God?" I encourage you to check it out! I have been reading it and it sure does shed some light on things I had not considered before! ...
The day I walked through my house one last time was the day I felt most abandoned by God. As I reached the front door, knowing it would be the last time I opened it, all of a sudden I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t open that door and walk to the truck piled high with our belongings. I remember resting my head on the doorframe as tears filled my eyes, asking myself, "How did we get to this place?"
Oh, I remembered all the mistakes we had made, but when we finally began to wake up, we immediately turned to God. We thought he would come through.
He didn’t. Our house went into foreclosure, we moved into a rental house, and God didn’t seem to care.
God had let me down. My whole Christian life had been built on this understanding of God being our provider—the one who we went to when we had a need, knowing he would provide. Where was he? Why wouldn’t he provide a job so we could maintain our standard of living?
Recently, I cried as I listened to a lady on the radio, she was crying as she explained to the host she only had five days until she had to move out of her rental home. They had lost their jobs. She was sharing how many people told her “to have more faith.” Those are hard words to heed when, in your heart, you have mustered up as much faith as possible and you’re still faced with unthinkable circumstances.
I wish I could have spoken to her, telling her how those of us whose hearts feel abandoned can find healing through a passage in John 10:11–14 when Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd.” If only someone would have shared the role of a shepherd when I was going through our foreclosure, I believe it would have made such a difference.
Maybe in your mind, you only see a shepherd walking with a big stick through lush fields while the fat, happy sheep graze. That’s what I pictured and it was far from my reality! So, I never connected with Jesus as my Good Shepherd.
As I thought on Jesus saying, “I’m the good shepherd” I began to wander what he meant. I know the shepherd is entrusted in caring for the sheep as they follow him, and they depend on him for safety and provision. But how does a shepherd actually shepherd?
A shepherd mostly lives in an environment that is hostile to the sheep. Every day the shepherd leads his sheep through rugged terrain, looking for the two basic necessities of life: water and food. The sheep follow him, facing dangers all around—sometimes of their own making when they stray too far. Other times the dangers are simply life in the hostile environment: predators, thorns, and holes in the ground.
I started realizing my life was being lived in a hostile environment, much like the sheep face. The most astounding aspect of shepherding is what happens night after night as the sheep go into the sheep pen. The shepherd bends down running his hands over each sheep with love, carefully inspecting them. He looks for any cuts, debris stuck in their coats, or anything that has hurt them during the course of the day. Within his capable hands is the power to mend, remove, and treat any harm the sheep has sustained.
This would have been so helpful in the midst of my own hurts. The realization of how each night Jesus wants to address my hurts from the day, frees me from the burden of striving to attain my shepherd’s notice. I don’t have to go searching for my shepherd’s care; I already have it! If only I had realized how willing Jesus is to care for my battered heart.
Friend, maybe you’re struggling too. If you are one of the many facing very difficult circumstances, knowing Jesus is your Good Shepherd can bring strength to your daily life as you walk out your door. The Good Shepherd is with you, as you walk through this hostile environment. I promise he sees the hurts, the doubts, and the fears. Not only does he see them, but there is also caring and healing in his hands.
Believers in the early church also faced circumstances where their lives changed drastically in the blink of an eye. They faced it by living lives devoted first to Jesus but also each other. They knew the Good Shepherd not only cared but had entrusted them to be his physical representatives. They came alongside of each other and helped one another.
One of my most vivid memories is sitting at table with a couple we are good friends with. For the first time in our life, we feared we wouldn’t have enough money to pay our bills. I’m talking about the bills that matter: electricity, water, groceries, the necessities of life. We were asking them to pray for us, and they offered not only prayer but money. We decided together to wait until the end of the month. God ended up providing some odd jobs for us, but the impact of their willingness to help changed my view of true Christians. I saw how the Good Shepherd was caring for me.
Their willingness to help is pictured in Acts 4:32 when the early church held all things in common. Are we willing to share what we have, even in days where our instincts tell us to hang on to what we have?
I pray that for those of you struggling to realize what shepherding means to those of us who belong to Jesus. I pray you are surrounded by Christians coming alongside of you with an offer to help. At the same time, I pray all of us take the opportunity to share what our Good Shepherd means to us, and become willing to step in and help where we can.
Jenny is giving away a copy of her book to one reader. Woot! Just leave a comment briefly sharing how you this book might help you?
U.S. residents only please. Winner will be randomly drawn and contacted by Friday.