Psalm 23 was the first scripture that I had memorized before I was even a follower of Christ because I sang it three times in chorus in high school. The psalm resonated differently with me then because it wasn’t the words that I was focused on. Instead, it was the music. It was the softness of the trumpet and calmness as we sang “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” It was the way the music built up to the most magnificent crescendo as we sang “yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” I didn’t know the power behind the words at the time, but I could feel the power behind the music. The composer, I know, felt those words. It took a few years before loving Psalm 23 was more about the words than the music for me.
I saw the movie The Insanity of God last week and it broke me the way I knew it would. Hearing stories of believers in other countries who are jailed, beaten, tortured, and murdered because of their faith in Jesus Christ breaks me. I am living in a place of nominal Christians who believe the only thing the Lord wants for us is a comfortable life, happy marriage, good kids, and to go to church on Sunday mornings. I know it isn’t all that way. I know we aren’t all that way. But something has happened in the western church that has made us forget that the gospel isn’t just about us. We go to God when we think we need something added to our lives. We give thanks to God when He gives us good things. And then we forget Him. We put Him on the backburner until we need Him again. And we only think He is good when He gives us what we ask for.
I’ve had this thought repeating in my head for a couple weeks now: God is still God and God is still good even when He’s not giving us good things. And by “good things” here, I mean things we in our human nature think are good. A job promotion, a new house, a significant other. We desperately want these things. We think they’ll give us a better life, a happier life, a more meaningful life. But when God doesn’t answer those prayers, He is still God. He is still sovereign. He is still worthy of praise. I remember the believers in other countries whose lives were wrecked because of their commitment to follow Jesus. But they did not care. They had nothing, but they had everything because they had Jesus. Oh how I yearn to live with that faith.
“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.” When He is the ruler of my life, I have everything that I need. I wonder how many times God hasn’t given me something I wanted. I know it’s a lot, but I know it’s because He knows better. I wonder how many times I have been walking through the valley, alone, uncertain, desperate to know that He is ahead of me and working things out for me, only to realize He was with me the entire time. Walking alongside me. Being good to me because He is good regardless of my cirumstances. I wonder how many times I’m going to go through this cycle of battling to trust God with control. How many times am I going to have to unclench my fists and let God be God, how many times I’m going to have to tell anxiety to find another host because it can’t have me. It tries to swallow me whole, and sometimes it seems easier if I would just let it. I let it convince me I’m not good enough, not worthy enough. But somehow God is there through it all. Even the waves and the wind obey him. How can I let anxiety rule over that? I’m learning, always learning, but it’s hard.
Because sometimes life will seem too good to be true and you’ll be so full of joy and thanking God that He is so good to you. And other times you’ll be crippled by anxiety, uncertain if you can take another breath, but somehow you’re still thanking God because He still is good to you. Even in the valley, even in the fear, even in the uncertainty. He is with me.