Rest in Every Season

"The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures." -  Psalm 23:1-2 ESV

Classic church stuff right here... I mean, I'm assuming. I didn't exactly grow up in church. Life was something like gloomy-but-hopeful in the season when I finally decided to become a Christian this final time around (and this time is meaningfully different than before). Prior to that, I had defined my beliefs simply as "I believe in love"--like, as a force that transcends understanding and is somehow the most powerful thing in the universe. I finally decided that I believed in Jesus in May 2017.

~ I shall not want. ~

Ten months later, I started walking through the most painful season of my life. Two things became painfully--painfully--obvious to me: 1) I had neglected my mental health in pursuit of comfort, and 2) I didn’t have any friends to walk through life with.

I tried going to a ministry where they talked about being best friends with God. That wasn't exactly working for me. I really wanted friends, but I felt like an outsider in this ministry. Everyone else already had their friend groups. I just wanted God to be as fulfilling for me as I had heard He could be. One of the most useful concepts I learned from there was:

“If you don't believe it's true, pray for it until you do!"

I looked for God really hard, searching for any kind of guidance. During that time, Psalm 23 was my go-to (and the Book of John, ‘cause that's just awesome).
I read the first verse to myself daily for several months. Most of the time in my mirror.

The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want.
The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want.
The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want.

I'd say it through tears. I'd say it through unbelief. This was my daily meditation because, to be real, I needed it to be true. I needed God to be as satisfying as this verse said He was. And, so far, I hadn't experienced it. I was afraid, and I was alone.

I didn't understand the shepherd imagery at the time--I've never met a shepherd before, as far as I know. But I knew that I had many wants and many needs. I wanted to be loved. I didn’t want to be alone. I needed help. I needed healing. I needed a friend.

I'd love to say that this tension resolved immediately--scroll credits--, but, truthfully, my healing process had just begun. I made one close friend and had moderate-to-low amounts of community, and I started going to counseling to address the pain that I had tried to repress. God’s freedom is still unfolding in my life, and, looking back, I can see that the Lord was my shepherd and best friend even then.

~ The Lord is my shepherd. ~

During this season of my life, I felt like a sheep without a shepherd. I felt helpless. I was afraid. I needed guidance. I was lost. I had no idea where I was going or what I was doing.

The best thing I could think to do on my own was distract myself from the pain. I decided to throw myself back into school in the following semester. I decided to go pre-med in an attempt to feel like I was smart and like I mattered.

Something you should learn now if you don't already know it: you are worth more than you can think or imagine because God says so. I wish I had known that at the time, because trying to earn your worth through your achievements and external validation from people is a recipe for disaster.

I commuted to school, took difficult classes that I lacked passion for, drove 45 minutes back to my house, and cried all the way home. I prayed and cried, cried and prayed. I didn't know what I was doing. All I knew was that I was in a terrible pattern that I couldn't break myself out of and that I needed someone else to guide me.

During one of those drives (between tears, I'm sure), I listened to a radio show where the host talked about the Apostle Paul's mission to the church in Athens, as mentioned in Acts. I knew it was talking about Athens in Greece, but to me, it was God putting Athens, GA back on my radar. And I really really wanted to go to UGA, but I wasn't sure if God wanted me to, so I asked for some sign. And then I got three in three days!

I didn't know if God could send signs, but I asked for them anyways. After coming to Wesley, I started to learn about hearing God's voice--which may seem like a confusing concept--, but it finally explained what I was experiencing! God was speaking to me and leading me to where He knew was best for me to go.

~ He makes me lie down in green pastures. ~

I'm still learning what "green pastures" look like. The best I can understand, green pastures are like the good seasons in your life. The thing about Him making you lie down in green pastures is that it's never about the circumstance--at least not really. It's about who you're with. It's not like asking "God, what can You do for me?" It's like saying "God, this place is beautiful, and this season is beautiful. Thank you for everything! And all of the wonders of this season are amazing. But my favorite thing about this is that You're here. Let’s just spend some time together!"

~ What Can I Do? ~

I'm still learning to trust God. But one thing I've found helpful is to really think about God's character before you start thinking about what you need from Him. Take time to meditate on it and consider what it means that Jesus loves you the same way the Father loves Him. That He would give His life for you. That He's constantly interceding and fighting for you. That He says "Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you" (John 15:3 ESV). God loves you more than you can possibly think or imagine, and He created everything that exists with His word. If He says you are clean, then you are clean. He is powerful, and He loves you. Let that sink in first.

From that understanding, then you can begin to let God lead you. You can begin to share your deepest wants and needs, knowing full well who you're talking to, that He deeply understands your wants and needs, and that He is the Lord who heals you (Exodus 15:26). If you know God's character, trusting Him is easy. Sharing your deepest anxieties and insecurities with Him is freeing and easy--plus, He already knows them anyway. Because God is always with you, you can find rest in every season.

Knowing God is not a burden. It's a privilege.

Following God is not stressful. It's joyful.

One of the best parts about being a Christian is actually being able to talk to God. So, pray to Him! Pray however you want! God loves your unique, authentic, 100% real voice! But these are two really helpful questions to get you started:

1. Who are You?
2. Who do You say I am?

And from that, learn to live it out with God by your side. :)

Author | Andrew Elder





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