Chronic pain will make you desperate faster than anything else I know–desperate for help, desperate for hope, and desperate for joy. It has made me desperate for God and for more of His power and grace in my life. With that desire in my mind, I have been studying the different names of God so that I can know Him more. Today the name I studied was the “Good Shepherd.”
Did you know that God compares us to sheep in the Bible? Sheep are utterly dependent upon the shepherd. If they fall over they cannot get back up on their own and will die trying. Their sheepskin will grow so thick that it will be too heavy for them to move. Sheep are weak and powerless and cannot defend themselves against stronger animals that prey against them. If the shepherd doesn’t protect them, they will die. If the shepherd doesn’t move sheep into greener pastures, they will stay in the same place even though the grass has been eaten away, and they will starve. If they fall into water, they will drown because their sheepskin is so heavy that they will sink and be unable to save themselves. Sheep are desperate for the shepherd. They cannot live apart from him.
Sheep’s dependence upon their shepherd is not unlike how we are utterly dependent upon our Good Shepherd, Jesus. We don’t always realize it, though. We think we need a new job or a different spouse. We try to improve our health. We shop or go online (or both, speaking to myself here) to fill the ache in our souls. We think we just need more money to make all our worries go away. We look to everyone and everything else to satisfy our needs when, all along, it is the Good Shepherd that will take care of us and fill the empty hole inside. In the Bible, Jesus talks about how God, our Father cares for His own just like the shepherd cares for his helpless sheep.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow, or reap, or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a singe hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:25-34, NIV)
God loves us just like the shepherd loves his own sheep and would give his life to protect them. At night, the shepherd leads all of his sheep into the pen, and then he lays down to sleep at the door of the pen to protect the sheep from wild animals that might try to prey on them at night. In much the same way, Jesus laid down His life to protect us from eternal punishment for our sins and ultimate separation from God forever.
Jesus is compared not only to the shepherd but also to a lamb in the Bible, and He is sometimes referred to as the “Lamb of God” because of the sacrifice He became for us. In the days when the Israelites were wandering in the wilderness 2000 years ago, God gave the people instructions to sacrifice animals to make atonement for their sin (wrong-doings), or to pay for their sins. In this day and age, that practice seems crazy to our thinking, but we do know that people have to pay for what they do. If a person murders or steals, he goes to jail. The Bible says that a blood sacrifice is required to pay for sins, and in order to prevent us from having to pay for our own sins, Jesus became that sacrifice for us so that we could have a relationship with God. He died when the people of His day ultimately rejected Him and killed Him like the worst of sinners–on a cross. The Bible says that our sins were placed on Him as He died, and He took the punishment for us so that we would not have to experience death and separation from God. If He had not done that, our sins would prevent us from coming before a holy God. How much love Jesus truly must have for us if He would sacrifice His life to enable us to have a relationship with God!
Psalm 23 is one of my favorite Psalms because it describes how lovingly and sufficiently the Good Shepherd takes care of us, His dear lambs. In beautiful poetic language, the Psalmist, who was himself a shepherd, describes how God takes care of us in the same way a Shepherd takes care of His beloved sheep.
“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. 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. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23:1-6, NIV)
If a sheep gets lost, the shepherd will go find that sheep because he knows that sheep can’t make it back to the fold on its own. God knows that if it weren’t for difficult circumstances in our lives, we probably wouldn’t realize our need for Him. He lovingly uses those circumstances to draw us to Him. Sometimes we blame God for those difficult circumstances and shut Him out completely, but oh, how much better it is when we let those circumstances draw us to Him! He loves us and proved it by sacrificing His life for us.
When I am in difficult circumstances and feeling desperate, I go to Jesus. I talk to Him as if He was sitting next to me. I pour out my disappointments, hurts, and fears to Him. I read the Bible, usually the Psalms, and let Him speak to me. He reminds me of His love and the promises in the Bible. His many promises comfort my heart. He promises that He is good (Nahum 1:7), that He will never leave us (Hebrews 13:5), that He cares for us (2 Peter 5:7), and that He will take care of us just like the shepherd takes care of his sheep (Isaiah 40:11). He will do the same for you.
You can go to Him and find the same promises true for you. You don’t have to be afraid that He will not receive you, because all of your sins and failures have been paid for by the Lamb of God! Go to Him now, and tell Him all of your fears, hurts, and deepest desires. He will not leave you alone.
When you are feeling desperate, choose one of the following things to do that will help you find strength and peace again:
- Look up some of the verses in the Bible that talk about God’s promises to us. Some verses that I love are: 2 Peter 5:7, Hebrews 13:5, Nahum 1:7, Psalm 37:23-25, 39-40, Isaiah 40:28-31, Isaiah 41:10.
- Do a short study about how our Good Shepherd cares for us as a shepherd cares for his sheep. Read Psalm 23, Isaiah 40:11, John 10:1-18, 25-30.
- Learn more about God by studying some of the different names God is called by in the Bible. Each name teaches us something different about God. (El Elyon, God Most High, Genesis 14: 18,22; Jehovah, The Lord, Exodus 6:2-3; Jehovah-Jireh, The Lord Will Provide, Genesis 22:14; Jehovah-Uzi, The Lord my Strength, Psalm 28:7)
- Write a letter to God just as if you were writing to your best friend. Tell Him everything you are feeling. Put it in your Bible or journal so that you can look back at it later and see some of the ways God met your needs because of that prayer.
- Begin reading one Psalm per day. Notice how real and honest the Psalmist was with God. Look for some of the many promises found in the Psalms. Take note of how God provided for and encouraged the Psalmist.
- As you find God’s promises in the Bible, start writing them on note cards, and post them where you can see them often. Think about how God is meeting your needs and fulfilling those promises.
- Begin to look for the small ways God is blessing you, for instance, through the warmth of a sunny day, or a bird cheerfully singing away nearby. These small things are blessings from God that we often overlook.
- As you do these things, your desperation will begin to dissipate, and God will begin to fill you up with His strength and peace. But your heart must be open to His work. Tell Him today that you want to let Him fill your heart and meet your needs. Ask Him to help you open your heart and receive what He has for you.
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Hi! My Name is Laurie, and I am a wife, mom, nurse, and patient living with fibromyalgia. I understand first-hand what life is like with chronic pain and illness. My passion is to help provide others with the spiritual encouragement and resources that I so desperately needed when I was first diagnosed. Please join us on the blog and Facebook page for regular encouragement and hope. Welcome!