Heart to Heart

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By John Braland, President of IMF's Board of Directors

What do you talk to God about when you don’t feel like talking to God? When a tragedy is so raw and the pain so powerful, which Bible verse do you turn to for comfort? I turn to Psalm 23.   
Two of the promises for believers found in Psalm 23 struck me this week. The first promise is found in verse one when David says: “1The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.” David loved the metaphor of seeing the LORD as a shepherd. A shepherd’s job consisted of leading the sheep to fertile areas to graze, protect them from predators and other hazards, and keep them together so they don’t stray from the group and get lost.
This is the promise: God provides. God is your shepherd. He makes us his own and delights in taking care of us. One of the names of God is “Jehovah-Jireh” which means the Lord Provides. God always promises to provide for us. This doesn’t mean that God always provides whatever we ask him for. God is not a vending machine. But he does provide his presence and the provision to get you from where you are to where he wants you to be.
The second promise is found in verses 2 and 3. “2. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.”
God promises to guide us. This is a picture of trust. The shepherd would never walk away from his sheep, he would never abandon them and his sheep would follow him. The sheep trust the shepherd to lead them where they need to be and in the same way we must trust our heavenly shepherd Jesus to lead us where we need to be.  
Then we get to verse four. “4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
Why would a good shepherd who would lay down his life for his sheep lead a lamb into a valley filled with danger? There’s only one possible answer, to get to a better place.
Every valley is pathway to new pasture. The valley isn’t good, but the Shepherd is. He knows the way. Sometimes the right path and the hard path are the same path. Even though we walk through the valley, God promises comfort. Your valley could be cancer, a divorce, a wayward child, whatever. When your finances are tight, and you are taking on yet another job to make ends meet, remember this: God promises to comfort. Cry out to God and he will comfort you.
We know that if we start heading in the wrong direction God will hook us back in. And if we stray, he will nudge us back on course. It may be for your protection and to keep you on your path. The rod and the staff in fact are there to comfort you and know that you are cared for and loved.
When David writes “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies” it implies that we will have enemies in our life, yet God still promises to bless us. To anoint someone with oil was a practice in biblical times to honor and dignify a person. It was also used in prayer to set someone apart for God to do a work in their life. So not only does God set the table for us in the presence of our enemies, he sets us apart with dignity and blesses us. My cup overflows because I am cared for and loved in abundance.
Then David ends with “6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” 
Today I encourage you to take the time to read Psalm 23 again. May it comfort you and encourage you whether you are resting in the green pasture or struggling through the valley. Trust the Good Shepherd to provide for you, guide you, comfort you, and bless you.

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