Most of us are aware of the severe suffering and persecution that our brothers and sisters in Christ, along with many others, are experiencing in the Middle East. I thank God that I am not a believer living in that part of the world, and I pray for them daily. But we don’t have to live in Iraq or be facing violent persecution to experience suffering. Suffering comes in many different forms.
Sometimes it comes into our lives simply as a result of living in a fallen world with fallible people, like the injured drivers who lost control of their cars when the throttle stuck open.
Other times suffering comes as a result of our own or a family member’s wandering. We are “like sheep going astray” says Peter, and when we do, or when a loved one does, we suffer for it. Like the friend who walked into my office twenty years ago and told me his wife had left him. “I was never at home. I was always at work,” he said. “But she was supposed to stick with me.” He was heartbroken. Another friend pushed his body to the breaking point because he financed his business venture with $70,000 of credit card debt. When his health failed, so did his business. Then there was the woman, suffering through her second divorce, who married her second husband on the rebound from her first marriage; and the guy who couldn’t keep his job because he couldn’t keep his temper.
The emotional torment of things like this can’t be measured. Bottle all the tears shed in the anguish of our souls and they would not begin to balance the scales of our sorrow.
Many of us know what that sorrow is like. But what we don’t know, or sometimes forget, is that there is Someone who cares very deeply about us. There is Someone whose compassion is as measureless as our sorrows, and whose mercy is deeper than our deepest fears. Peter calls him The Shepherd and Guardian of our souls. His name is Jesus.
The word “Shepherd” has a backpack full of meaning for us. I want to unpack some of that over the next couple of weeks, beginning today with the shepherd as leader.
The shepherd of our souls leads us. (See John 10:2-4). He goes out in front. He knows where the good pasture is. He knows where the best path is. He knows where our souls need to go in order to grow strong and healthy and prepared for the future. He leads us there. That means He goes ahead of us. If we find the way hard, we know he’s been there first.
Peter wrote, “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” (1 Peter 2:23).
Following Jesus doesn’t mean the way is always easy. Sometimes it’s very difficult. But when He is leading we know that the pain has meaning and leads to victory. We understand the purpose of the trial and have less trouble staying on task because we’re not worrying, “why is this happening to me?” Our Shepherd has gone before us, suffered this path ahead of us, and will continue to lead us no matter what.
Do you know the Shepherd of your soul? Can you hear his voice? Follow him, for he cares for you.