When is the last time you felt at ease?
It feels strange to think of a Psalm often associated with funerals as an invitation to everyday ease, but that is both what the Psalmist and Easter invite us into. So I ask again, “When is the last time you felt at ease?”
I ask a similar question as I open the About page on the THRIV3 Holistic Coaching website. There I describe it as a day where everything aligns. Sometimes it just seems to magically happen. At other times, there is an intentionality to it. But if we look at Psalm 23, ease is something that can transcend circumstance if we have the right perspective.
An Easy Psalm Opening
Psalm 23 opens with the simple statement, “I have all that I need.” The Psalmist then goes on to identify just what is needed in life.
The food offered by green pastures. A refreshing drink granted by quiet waters. The peace of green meadows to settle down in while a good meal digests. The security of knowing that, even when you get lost, the shepherd will come to your rescue.
What a stark contrast to the messaging we hear around us. How many times a day do you hear that you are not safe? That you need to change something about yourself to be complete? How a simple meal is not enough to satisfy your belly? Our consumer-capitalist society is all about stirring up a sense of inadequacy, both as persons and concerning our possessions.
But it is not just society that does this. For much of my life, this is what the church did as well. The constant reminders of my sinfulness and depravity did far more to amplify shame and foster a sense of lack than any carefully crafted advertisement. I touched on this early in my dissertation where I highlighted how conservative churches set out to heighten a problem so their understanding of Jesus can be the solution.
But none of that exists in Psalm 23. Instead, there is simply the shepherd providing all that we need and seeking us out when we wander off the righteous path, and with that comes ease.
Ease Amongst Dis-ease
But the Psalmist knows that life is not always sunshine and rainbows. In the Middle Eastern world, there is only enough water for truly green pastures to grow a couple of months out of the year, and peaceful streams often dry up. In contrast, it is not unusual for us to find ourselves in what the King James Version of the Bible calls the valley of the shadow of death.
This is not the same as the dissatisfaction stirred by society or some approaches to faith, rather, this is a legitimate threat to our well-being. Perhaps it is rooted in our society where in the midst of so much, 39% of Americans report recently skipping meals just so they can pay rent. Or perhaps it is a life-threatening illness or an illness that becomes life-threatening because health care is not affordable. For the Psalmist, it often meant living on the run as his opponents quite literally were out to kill him.
But even here, the Good Shepherd is close, bringing ease where the circumstances would otherwise cause fear. The Psalmist even goes so far as to say that right there, in the presence of the enemy, the shepherd sets out a feast. This is a far cry from the green pastures and quiet waters, but even here, amid chaos, there is a sense of real calm.
That is what it means to have a Good Shepherd. That is what we are offered at Easter.
Do you want to discover this kind of calm in your own life? Or maybe you are looking to move beyond an understanding of Christianity that amplifies shame? Schedule a discovery call with me and let’s talk about the possibilities.