Psalm 23 – Week 11
The comfort of your love takes away my fear. I’ll never be lonely for you are near.
I have to admit that my favourite ponderings and writing topic is God’s love. Nowadays, I almost feel like I have to apologize for this because of the negative and sometimes even scornful rap this focus gets. Doesn’t it sound weird to you when one of your brothers or sisters in Christ says (with disapproval), “All anyone wants to look at these days is God’s love!” I always have a sense that maybe there are different ideas about God’s love that I am not aware of. But I get it – sort of. We are afraid, afraid to make God too soft, too easy. We are afraid to hold out the notion that God’s constant and sure love means there are no hard kingdom ways to walk. We are afraid that promoting God’s love too much will make weak disciples. I wonder, though, what definition of love are we working with when we have these fears?
If we take the scriptures as a whole, we could say it is a very long definition of true love. Strong, loyal love that never let’s go in the face of rejection, false accusations, and constant disassociation from this Person loving. Love that weeps with the sorrowing, that gets angry at the sin that gets in the way of wholeness, love that reaches and gathers under its wings, love that is fierce against all that hinders the value of humanity, love that tells you the truth even when it hurts, love that guides, heals, strengthens, and draws the soul to rest, love that blossoms us – transforms us like nothing else, love that dies so we can live, love that imparts courage to carry on, love that writes the ways of God on the heart, love that forgives so deeply, love that lifts guilt and condemnation off burdened shoulders, love that takes the time to train the soul in the ways of life, love that helps us bear the consequences of poor choices and finds a way to create beauty out of our ashes, love that breathes hope and promise for a better day being prepared. Wouldn’t this be the kind love that we would never tire of speaking of, looking at, opening ourselves to and hold out to others?!
The Psalmist says that the comfort of God’s love takes his fear and loneliness away. It isn’t that he or we are never afraid or lonely. He is saying that God and His love is the returning place for his soul to be free from his fears and loneliness. God is Love and He is the only Resting Place for this kind of freedom. His love – in its infinite and fathomless descriptions – is the only place to go. It’s what Peter meant when Christ asked him if he wanted to leave him as others had. “Lord, where would I go? You have the words that give eternal life.” (John 6:68)
Peter is saying that he believes what Christ said earlier. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:10-11)
THE WORD come in the flesh to speak out the words of eternal life, words that draw us into placing our faith – our very lives – into God who is Love. (1 John 4:8) I believe that all other truths about God are rooted in the love that we are told we will never be separated from.
“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)
Has there ever been a time like this in your life and in mine where fear and loneliness are so present? Sometimes I can feel the fear in my body and loneliness in the depths of my soul. It can be the “smallest” thing that tips me over into realizing this, and I am undone. I know I am someone who hasn’t suffered near as much as another. But I also know this: God doesn’t compare His children’s sufferings. He doesn’t tell us that we “shouldn’t” be afraid or lonely. He doesn’t point to a person who is suffering something different or circumstantially harder and tell us to ditch our struggle in light of that person. He knows each one of us and opens His love to us in the ways that we need Him.
Become still and aware of your body so that you can be present and honest with yourself. You can help this with deep breaths, following your breath into your body and by placing your hand on your body.
Where do you sense the fear and/or loneliness inside of you? Ask the Holy Spirit to help you know yourself and where you need the love of God.
Read my initial description of God’s love. Which part stands out to you? Open yourself to acknowledge your need and to receive. Give your fear (s) and loneliness space. Let it out.
Read Romans 8:38-39
Talk to God about it all. Think of His love as a place to come, to rest, to be comforted, to be cared for. How compassionate He is for you.