Recently I have been thinking a lot about the references in the Bible to sheep; specifically Jesus being our good shepherd (as outlined in John 10:1-21) and what this means for those of us in tough circumstances.
I find it pretty humbling to be compared by Jesus to a sheep (John 10:3); if you have spent any time with sheep you will know they are really stupid. They follow the crowd, get themselves in dangerous situations and do not know what is best for them. This is a good image to bring to mind when I feel prideful and think I can do things without God. As it says in Philippians 4:13: ‘I can do all things THROUGH him [Christ] who strengthens me’ (my emphasis added) and Proverbs 11:2 says: ‘when pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.’ So we need to let Jesus shepherd us rather than try to do things in our own strength.
In order to be guided by the good shepherd we need to ‘…listen to his voice…’ (John 10:3). The only way to recognise someone’s voice is to spend time with them. Spending time with Jesus should be our top priority in life and we should give him our best time. As someone with a chronic illness I know this can be tough, I share some of my strategies here.
Finally, I find it comforting to know that Jesus is walking with me and guiding me with a much bigger perspective than I have when struggling in a difficult time; as it says in Psalm 95:4: ‘in his hands are the depths of the earth…’. If you have ever watched sheep being herded you will notice that they will try and run away, they have no concept of the fact that the shepherd is leading them through a brief time of difficulty in order for them to reach beautiful nourishing pasture. This means when we face difficulties, God knows where he is taking us; God has plans for us (Jeremiah 29:11). This is summed up by David where in Psalm 23:4 he says: ‘even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil for you are with me; your rod and staff they comfort me.’
So in summary I find it really reassuring that Jesus is my good shepherd because that means: he is always with me (Deuteronomy 31:6); he is leading me (John 10:3) and providing for me (Matthew 6:25-34). In order to fully benefit from his shepherding I need to follow his leading and spend time with him regularly to get to know his voice better.
If you are able to, I would strongly recommend a fantastic short book on Psalm 23. A Shepherds Look at Psalm 23 by Phillip Keller takes each verse of the Psalm and explores what it means. I have found it incredibly helpful and have read it several times. It is a small book, has short chapters and is cheap to buy.