For some time I’ve been pondering and praying over these words from Psalm 23:6a*:
“Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,”
David’s psalm begins with the good Shepherd walking in front of His flock, leading the way, but ends with Him following from behind. Why?
It perplexed me for some time. If God is leading me through dark times to a lush, pleasant highland to rest and refresh myself, why is He suddenly walking from behind?
And then I considered this very famous verse from Apostle Paul, Romans 8:28: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God,”.
God leads “us in the path of righteousness for His name’s sake.” (Psalm 23:3b*) The problem is, I don’t always follow Him and wander off the path. Sometimes it’s because of foolishness, or lack of trust in Him, or just simply not knowing what I should be doing. And, I hate to admit it but it’s true, it’s just outright rebellion, thinking I know better than God.
Stupid to think I know better than the omniscient God, isn’t it?
We do have to pay the penalty when we wander off course. Not because God is mean, but consequences teach us to stay on the path. “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.”–Galatians 6:7 *
However, God is merciful and loving. What I finally realized is: When I mess up, my merciful Father helps me get back on course. He follows behind, helping me to get out of the hole I’ve dug for myself and to fix the mess I got myself into. He doesn’t kick me when I’m down. There are some things that cannot be reversed, for example an abortion, but He brings healing to the suffering woman who’s had one through godly Christian counseling and friendship.
But God isn’t mean: He doesn’t want us to stay down when we slip up. A common metaphor preachers use is: Like a little child that’s learning how to walk and then falls, God has ahold of my hand and lifts me back up again and helps me walk forward. The Christian life is a process. We’re not instantly perfect when we become born-again; learning to be a godly person is a lifetime task.
I think anyone who knows me would certainly agree that I’m far from perfect.
“The steps of a man are established by the Lord, And He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, Because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.”–Psalm 37:23-24*
It’s comforting to know that the Lord has “enclosed me behind and before,” (Psalm 139:5*). I’m not alone in trying to clean up the mess I’ve made. My merciful Friend is right with me.
*All quotes from the NASB version of the Bible.
(Also, please note that I’ve been influenced by many godly persons and preachers in my lifetime. Not everything I write is 100% original with me; for instance, the metaphor of a child falling down and being lifted up again by the Heavenly Father. But I certainly couldn’t tell you where I first heard it.)