The click-clack of my winter boots on the tile floor echoed off the painted concrete walls. Thrumming filled my ears with every heartbeat, and butterflies had taken up residence in my stomach as I followed the postered and bulletin board-dotted hallway. Thirty-two years old and a mother of three, I had decided to go back to school to upgrade my education; or that was my plan. However, I did not expect what I would experience over the following few months and how it would change my life forever.
But God knew.
My solitary walk down that elongated, empty hallway had been a part of His plan for my life since before I was formed in the womb because He knew me and loved me.
Do you ever wonder what the future holds? Are you feeling unsure or confused about which way to turn? Do you feel trapped and paralyzed? Take a deep breath, be still, and know God has this. Even when it looks impossible to find a path where the best interests of everyone are satisfied, God IS able. It will not look like you thought it would or planned it to be. It may be a quick and miraculous plan. But sometimes it will be so difficult you would rather stab yourself in the heart to end the pain because dying to Self is stupid hard! But believe me when I say,
God’s plans for us are often not a quick, easy fix because we don’t learn lessons that way as a rule. We are stupid sheep. We bite and buck to go our way and for our glory; we wander, get lost easily, and don’t trust our Shepherd.
Sheep are lost without a shepherd but even found sheep need to learn how to follow. In Eastern countries, shepherds – concerned for the safety of a lamb that consistently wanders away- have been known to break the animal’s leg that will not follow or listen to their voice. This sounds cruel, but it is in the best interest of the lamb. If the lamb does not learn to listen to the voice of the master, it will hurt itself by falling over cliffs or being killed by predators. After breaking the leg, the shepherd then carries the lamb close to his heart or, on his shoulders, gently talking to and providing the choicest food for it. By the time the leg has healed and, the lamb can walk on its own, it has learned such trust in the shepherd that it becomes his most obedient sheep.
In this same way, sometimes our circumstances reduce us to complete dependence upon the Lord, and we discover there is no Shepherd quite like Him.
In Genesis 37, God showed Joseph through dreams that he would be a leader of his people someday, but what Joseph thought would happen was not what God had planned. Joseph needed to learn humility and reliance on God first, through slavery, betrayal, wrongful imprisonment and long years of waiting. Then he became a leader that surpassed more than he could ever have dreamed or imagined.
This is how our Good Shepherd cares for us.
Those echoing steps I took down that college hallway led me to more than education in a subject. They led to an education in the truth of God, His Word and the path to freedom and abundant life in Him.
It wasn’t easy.
I would never have chosen that path or even known it existed.
But I knew deep down it was the right path because my Shepherd was holding me close to His heart and feeding my starving soul the choicest of food. He carried me on His shoulders when I didn’t have the strength to walk and could only silently sob into my pillow, clinging to His Word. I was blind, confused and couldn’t find a straight path out. Yet miraculously, He opened my eyes and healed my broken soul to stand on the beginning of a new path.
I couldn’t see the whole path before me because it twisted and turned in ways I could never have foreseen. Gratitude fills my heart for that because if I had seen some of the places that path would take me, I would have given up. God knew I wasn’t ready for those challenges. I only had faith enough to start.
At each bend in the path, my Shepherd provided enough nourishment and light for the next section, the next lesson and grew my faith and knowledge in Him slowly and steadily, at the perfect pace for me.
He will do this for each of us in our own unique way. He has promised to lead us and never forsake us.
What do you do when you are groping blindly for a path out? When the walls are pressing in around you and fear grips your throat, where do you turn for help? As our turbulent minds franticly search for answers, who do we look to?
The good Shepherd is waiting to show us, guide us and even, if need be, carry us to and on the best path. He is trustworthy, gentle, loving and strong enough to lead us through whatever lies ahead.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.
We do not have to go it alone, we have a friend in Jesus who is the Good Shepherd.