“He restores my soul.” Psalm 23:3
J. I. Packer tells a story of a former student who had fallen on hard times. Actually, Packer recorded the testimony of the former student’s wife who had entitled her testimony “Made Redundant.” Listen to the first part of the story, “I shall never forget Frank’s face as he walked through our front door that evening. . . . It was quite gray and utterly defeated.” He had been terminated, “made redundant” is the way the company termed it.
He immediately began searching for work but was rebuffed everywhere. “He was willing to do any work at all . . . but no one wanted him. It hurt me to see a man usually so full of vigor and ideas just silently helping me with the housework or sitting and staring aimlessly into space.” (Never Beyond Hope, p. 10)
This story came to mind one time as I was reflecting on the most familiar passage in all of Scripture, the 23rd Psalm. I usually read this psalm at funerals because it gives hope and direction. It serves to assure the ones who live here that the Good Shepherd has led their loved one safely home, and that same Good Shepherd will lead them through the days of adjustment ahead. On this particular occasion, I was standing at the graveside of a dear old saint who died and was laid to rest at a crossroad’s cemetery in a rural north Louisiana community. She had lived a good and faithful life, full of the same kind of chapters we all have written. Some wonderful. Others devastating.
David had the same kind of story, full of victories that would be told for thousands of years, and scandals so nefarious that you question how this could be “a man after God’s own heart.” He had seen the good. He had seen the bad.
Then, in what I believe were his waning years, David looked back on all of life and saw a constant thread holding together the tapestry. It was the thread of grace. So he wrote, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.”
He restores my soul. We have all been wounded. Each one of us limps. You don’t always get the job. You don’t always get the girl. You don’t always get the healing. You don’t always get your way. But you always receive the grace. I heard someone say recently, that grace pools in the wounds of life. Every one of us bears scars that have been wonderfully healed by grace. We all need restoration, and we have a God who promises to restore our souls.
Now let’s finish Frank’s story. After a great deal of prayer and endurance Frank came up with the idea of starting his own business. The plan proved sound and the crisis was surmounted. His wife ended her testimony in this way, “I do not know why Frank lost his job. I do not know why he is doing well now. But I do know that I can trust God. . . . And that he can give, even in the blackest moments, hope.” (ibid)
The most common mistake we make in our relationship with God is embracing the conviction that we know the best, specific form of grace or blessing God should give us. Actually, we are invited to pray for any request and let it be known to God. No problem with that! But we must maintain a certain degree of reverent uncertainty that we do not know exactly what form of blessing God will or should give. We must not demand a certain path for Him to lead us down. We have to trust, even when the path is rather obscure. We simply have to trust. God is worthy of that trust!
David’s life was not a string of unbroken success. It was a real life. This most famous psalm teaches us to trust God, even in the darkness. You must believe with unfailing conviction that God will take care of you and the people you love. And even when the stab of real life tears at your life, you know God gives grace to the brokenhearted. He restores your soul.
What will 2011 hold for you? You can only half guess. But you know who leads you. You know who will restore you! Trust and follow.
Dr. Terry Ellis
January 10, 2011