Like David, who wrote Psalm 23, I have spent a lot of time raising and caring for sheep and it was this experience that helped me understand and appreciate a little more what he meant when he wrote “The Lord is my shepherd.” My own story shows how God speaks to us in different (unique) ways to show how much he cares and loves us. He wants us to rest in Jesus every moment of the day.
I can’t tell you how many times I read the verse, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” At some point, I started visualizing Jesus with His arms stretched out and couldn’t get that picture out of my head.
One day, while I was working in the kitchen, I looked out the window and saw one of our lambs on the outside of the fence. Somehow, he had gotten out and was frantic to get back in. He was running the length of the fence and his brother was running with him on the other side. Back and forth they ran together trying to find a way in.
I quickly went out to help him. I stretched out my arms and tried to catch him as he ran by me. He was so upset and frightened he would jump on the wire fence and fall to the ground each time. I kept calling him in that kind of voice you use when you talk to animals and babies. He just kept running past me in fear.
Sheep are dumb, fearful and have no sense of direction. They NEED someone to lead or guide them. He was getting tired and I was afraid he was going to hurt himself. After many unsuccessful attempts to catch him, I decided to open up the gate and gently guide him in that direction. He finally found the opened gate and ran to his family.
I came in and sat back down, and there in front of me was that Bible verse, “Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
Just like sheep, we too, can be dumb, untrusting, impatient and have no sense of direction. It was during this time that circumstances led my family to leave our home church of six years. It was a heart wrenching time. For months, I felt like that lamb running along the fence wanting to get back in. That lamb knew on the other side of the fence was protection, nourishment, his family, and ultimately, REST! That’s what I wanted. I wanted rest and God’s blessings. I might not have looked as frantic as he did on the outside, but on the inside, I felt the same anguish.
I looked up the word anguish: it means “great suffering, as from worry, grief or pain.” That was me. I tried not to show it and didn’t tell anyone how I was really feeling, not even God (especially not God). The anguish part of it was the grieving process but I was running along the fence with more than anguish; I was running with resentment, anger and pride.
Anguish is not a sin, but anger and resentment reacted to in the wrong way is. Instead of turning to God and trusting Him, I was impatient and took control - just like that lamb not trusting me and jumping on the fence.
One of the ways I took control was by gossiping and feeding off everyone else’s gossip. I justified it by saying that it was part of the grieving process and that it’s “good” to vent. Like that lamb jumping on the fence; I, too, kept falling. I wasn’t getting through the pain any faster and it was preventing me from experiencing the blessings of life. I was trying to get through the pain in my own strength and timing.
Sometime during that experience with the lamb, with my arms stretched out in front of me, I know I either said or at least thought, “If you’ll just come to me, if you’ll just trust me, I’ll help you.” I felt that lamb’s anguish and fear and wanted so much to help him.
Jesus, our Good Shepherd, wants so much to help us also. He sees our daily struggles with sorrow, loneliness, anger, fear, etc. He, too, has His arms stretched out waiting for us to come to Him, wanting us to trust Him so He can give us rest. He wants us to know His love and trust His Word.
I was tired of grieving; tired of being angry, resentful and bitter. I finally surrendered it to God and opened up my heart. I chose to trust God no matter what happened in my life. I prayed my heart, eyes and ears would be open to whatever God had for me to learn.
His love helped me be able to look back at what I had been doing and see from His perspective. The Scripture says His love is so great that I will never see the end of it or fully know or understand it. That’s because I’m human. But I understand His love a little better; I know more of who God is and trust Him more. It all started by stepping out in faith and opening up my heart in prayer.
I experienced God’s love for myself as I helped that lamb get back inside where he could be safe, nourished and find rest. Because of that experience, I trust and have more faith in God. I hope I never forget that day and the love God showed me. I now know you can’t experience this love if you are closed off from God. It wasn’t until I surrendered to God’s will and stopped trying to control that I was awakened to the reality of His love.
I was brought down by circumstances that wounded my heart and left me feeling lonely and confused. Instead of trusting God and His mighty power, I ran impatiently ahead of Him, just like the lamb that ran impatiently ahead of me. I wanted the rest that was on the other side of the fence, but I tried to get it or find it my way and in my timing.
We can’t avoid or ignore God. He knows our thoughts, feelings and sins. He waits for us to come to Him with our repentant hearts, our wounded hearts, our prayers, our thoughts, our hopes and desires.
He doesn’t wait with tightly folded arms. He waits with arms wide open....
During your next trial, which lamb are you going to be?
Will you be like the lamb that runs frantically back and forth, trying to figure things out on your own, trying to get through the pain in your own strength and timing?
Or, will you be like the lamb that trusts the Good Shepherd, running to Him as fast as you can, running into His arms so He can carry you to that place of rest?