“He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.” (Psalm 23:2-3 NIV)
Each and every day, if we give ourselves to some good, important work, we will meet with stress and anxiety. Just seems like a predictable part of life.
Sometimes that stress and anxiety comes from others. Sometimes it wells up within us. No matter the origin, anxiety spreads. It is contagious. It moves from one person to the next and clings like static. Everyone in the room can carry a little anxiety, but together it multiplies and rises like a surging wave.
Like misery, anxiety and stress love company. So much so that if someone is not adequately stressed and anxious as to provide matching company, they must be ramped up in order to properly share it!
The antidote to this is calm. Everyone is worked up. Time to dial it down.
The famous story of the woman caught in the act of adultery in John 8 depicts, in my mind’s eye, a gang of Pharisees and teachers who are anxious about the situation. They desperately want to set a trap for Jesus. They have seized upon what they believe will be a great opportunity. (We can tell this is not about a woman’s sin but rather about setting a trap for Jesus because the man involved has not been dragged out before the crowd. Tellingly, they are simply using her as a tool.) But Jesus has wiggled out of traps like this before. Can they rush him into imprudence?
What is Jesus’ response in the midst of this? Kneel down on the ground and draw in the sand with his finger. Their urgency increases. Anxiety swells. But is Jesus susceptible to this wave? Apparently not. Jesus finds a way to stay engaged in the important thing that is happening before him while remaining detached from the rising stress and anxiety making its way from person to person. From a place of serenity, Jesus is able to halt the expansion of anxiety and respond with calm, compassion, grace, and truth.
So, here’s a word for us. As we submit ourselves to God’s shepherding leadership in our lives, “He makes [us] lie down in green pastures, he leads [us] beside quiet waters, he refreshes [our] soul[s].” In other words, staying connected with Christ is the key to getting in that better place from which we can see clearly, make better decisions, and respond with wisdom and grace.
Is this serenity easy to achieve? No way. For some temperaments, it seems downright impossible. That’s why we submit to the Good Shepherd’s leadership of our lives. A refreshed soul is not something we can achieve. But it is a gift we can receive.
Prayer: God, when all around me is stirring up, give me the calm of one who has laid down in green pastures and been refreshed by quiet waters. I like this as an idea. Give me an opportunity to live it today. Amen.