"Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things" (Luke 10:41 NASB).
The One who spoke those words so long ago gently reiterated them to me as I drove to work one recent morning. Agitated (and, frankly, perturbed with myself for feeling so irritated), I clung, white-knuckled to the steering wheel, lost in an inarticulate, yet incessant internal monologue.
His words gave me pause for thought. Seizing the moment, He reminded me of another Scripture. This one perfectly voicing my frustration. "Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my savior and my God" (42:5 NIV). While I am not normally a big fan of my 22-mile commute to work, I found myself very grateful this day as I had time to reflect on that entire verse.
In his book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, Phillip Keller explains that a downcast sheep is one that has turned over on its back and cannot get up again by itself. While there are numerous reasons a sheep may end up in that condition (worthy of a blog in itself), Keller writes, "A cast sheep is a very pathetic sight. Lying on its back, its feet in the air, it flays frantically struggling to stand up, without success." He continues, "Sometimes it will bleat a little for help, but generally, it lies there lashing about in frightened frustration." And that was me. Like a hockey player body-checked by his opponent, I was sideswiped by a number of circumstances that left me downcast. Upset and troubled, I flailed around in my inability to upright myself. It was indeed, "a very pathetic sight."
While Keller's vivid assessment may offend the Pharisee in us, his strategic description undergirds a stark reality. "If the [shepherd] does not arrive on the scene within a reasonable short time, the sheep will die," he writes. "Buzzards, vultures, dogs, coyotes, and cougars all know that a cast sheep is easy prey and death is not far off." Perhaps that is why the Psalmist wasted no time in commanding his soul to, "Put your hope in God" (42:5b). This sage-shepherd knew that just as the only hope for a downcast sheep is the shepherd, so the only hope for a disconsolate soul is God. As the shepherd carefully uprights the sheep, so God tenderly rescues and secures us. (Check out Psalm 40:1-3, Isaiah 41:10, and Isaiah 33:12).
In faith, the Psalmist concludes his self-directed exhortation with this profound, prescriptive declaration, "for I will yet praise him, my savior and my God." The Hebrew word translated as "praise" in this verse is the word, "yadah." It means to throw out the hand, to worship with extended hand, or to hold out the hand in surrender. The opposite conduct is to bemoan and to wring the hands in anxiety. I believe this tactical word choice alerts us to the fact that when you are downcast, intentional, counter-intuitive action is required. It means though the vultures may be circling, "I will yet [yadah]." Though the coyotes may be howling, "I will yet [yadah]." And though the cougar may be growling, "I will yet [yadah]." Beloved, it is time for the downcast to quit "lashing about in frightened frustration" and to, instead, surrender to the rescuing arms of the Good Shepherd. Hear the great news! "Behold, the Lord’s hand is not so short that it cannot save, nor His ear so impaired that it cannot hear" (Isaiah 59:1 AMP).
So, precious one, are you downcast? Are you "upset and troubled, pulled away by... many distractions"? (Luke 10:41 TPT). Are you "worried and bothered about providing so many things" (PHILLIPS). Are you wringing your hands and bemoaning your circumstances? Hear the Shepherd's heart expressed through author Sarah Young's writing. "The only thing you can grasp without damaging your soul is My hand."
Child, now is the perfect moment to "yet praise him." Follow the example of the Psalmist, "When my soul is in the dumps, I rehearse everything I know of you" (Psalm 42:6 MSG). And as you yadah, "Take strength; have courage! There’s nothing to fear. Look, here - your God! Right here is your God! The balance is shifting; God will right all wrongs. None other than God will give you success. He is coming to make you safe” (Isaiah 35:4 VOICE). He will indeed rescue you, restore your soul, and quiet you with His love (Psalm 23:3, Zephaniah 3:17).
Thanks be to God.
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