These are tough times to be sure. The Great Recession continues to haunt us and we need help. I can find solace in thinking about the laughs and giggles of my three grandchildren: Enoch, Evy, and Kaela. When I’m inundated with bad news all I have to do is picture them and a smile creeps up on me. Tomorrow I’ll get to see Enoch and Evy and spend some time with them at the State Fair. I’ll have some comfort food, too! Maybe it will be a corn dog or two, or something fried that I’ve never had before. On Sunday I get to participate in Kaela’s baptism and that will be great! Unfortunately, even as I anticipate spending time with them all, I know there’s got to be a stronger anchor in the gales of life.
From my own life experience and those of countless people around me, before me, and those who will follow in the future, the answer to lasting peace and joy is found in Jesus and His Word. The Bible is a source of strength that weathers every storm. Certainly, John 3:16 is a well known Bible verse, but there is no more famous passage of Scripture than the 23rd Psalm. Atheists in foxholes during battle have been known to seek comfort from the words, “The Lord is my shepherd.” Haven’t we all? It is one of the most comforting passages in the Bible. It gives us hope, security, and faith.
Its words suggest that God knows our every need and will see us through the deepest valleys of darkness. Immediately after World War II the allied armies gathered up many hungry homeless orphans and placed them in camps. They were well taken care of, but that didn’t keep the children from having trouble sleeping at night. They were restless and afraid. One of the Army psychologists had an idea. After the children were put to bed at night, they were given a piece of bread to hold. If they wanted more to eat, it was provided. This piece of bread was simply for holding. The result was amazing. The children slept. After all the torment of hunger and loss of family, that piece of bread gave them the assurance that they would have something for the next day. The piece of bread took away their fear of tomorrow.
God the Good Shepherd provides for us when we’re war-torn and weary. Jesus is the Bread of Life born appropriately in Bethlehem which in Hebrew means “house of bread.” Until we know the goodness and care of the Shepherd who is the Bread of Life we will continue to be afraid. Garrison Keillor, in his radio program “Prairie Home Companion,” tells the story about a teenage boy who drove down to St. Paul and waited in line all night to purchase tickets to a rock concert. The rock band was the boy’s favorite, so he camped outside of the ticket office in the middle of a snowstorm just to make sure that he would get tickets.
His mother didn’t approve of the band. She didn’t like their music or their reputation. She had read all sorts of horror stories about rock concerts and the things that go on and the kinds of people that attend. When her son got home from getting the tickets the next morning, he put them on the kitchen table and went to bed. The mother looked at those tickets. What should she do? Hide them? Tear them up? What would a loving mother do? Should she leave them on the table or tear them up? What was in her son’s best interest? There she stood, looking at those tickets, wondering, debating what she should do. And then after a long pause, Keillor said, “Well, that’s the news from Lake Wobegon this week, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.” The story was over. Those who heard it were left dangling, wondering and unknowing.
Keillor opened his program the next week talking about all the letters he had received the past few days. People wrote: “You didn’t finish the story. What did the mother decide to do?” Keillor Left it hanging. He said, “I don’t know how it is with most of you out there, but there are a lot of unfinished stories in me.”
With all of the uncertainties of the present economic crisis, family issues and an uncertain future with its multitude of unfinished stories, it is good to know that Jesus the Good Shepherd goes with us and takes care of us. With Christ we know the story’s victorious ending. Hebrews 13 says it well: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Wherever we are, God is with us. That is our faith and foundation. We will continue to say, “The Lord is my Shepherd…” and count on Him.