We’ve all heard the 23rd Psalm. Most Christians have memorized the first line and can say it with ease … The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. The question is, how many of you really mean it? Shall … not … want. If we say we don’t want for anything, why do we have so many long lists of things we want and/or believe we need?
This past February, Christian music icon Carman was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Rather than curling up in a ball of defeat, he became more determined than ever to fight the enemy. He wrote new songs and started a Kickstarter campaign to record them and tour. He took a literal death sentence and turned it into an opportunity to share eternal life with his last breaths. He became the epitome of Psalm 23. I shall not want.
Ten days ago, our 8-year-old family dog had a mass removed. The vet said it came out so easily and she was so healthy otherwise, that she didn’t feel like it was cancer. The lab results told a different story. Not only was the mass a carcinoma, the blood vessel that was feeding it had cancer cells in it, meaning the tumor had already started spreading cancer cells to the rest of her body through her blood stream. Prognosis? Six months.
While Laysia isn’t a human part of our family, she is a family member. We rescued her as a puppy from the Humane Society and she has grown up with our girls. The news was devastating to all of us. It wasn’t long at all before I lost my membership in the “I shall not want” club. I found myself even being “generous” enough to give God “options!”
Main want: Lord, please make the doctors wrong. If, however, it’s not your will to make them wrong, then give her more time so we can be “ready.” And if that choice doesn’t suit you, then at least take her so we don’t have to make the decision to send her over the rainbow bridge.
That was when my first epiphany of the day hit … I can’t do God’s job.
No big news flash there, right? None of could be God. The thing is, as I look back, I see that there have been plenty of times in my life that I’ve implied that I could be just as good at doing the job. I’ve seen where people have done horrible things to each other and thought (or even said) things like, “Wow – he/she had better be glad that I’m not God. I would (fill in the blank with what you feel like are “fitting” punishments for things like murder, sex crimes, child abuse, animal abuse…). By saying that, it’s almost as if I were telling God that I thought I could do His job at least as well, if not better than He does! (Pride much?) Or how about all of the times that I have been faced with a major problem in my life and I “gave it all to God” only to turn around and offer up a list of suggested solutions to Him when He didn’t move fast enough to suit me? While my heart knew that His timing is always perfect (Psalm 75:2), my ego never truly gave Him the problem to deal with in His time because it figured that my time was now.
As I was asking the Lord for forgiveness for being such a prideful jerk, my second epiphany hit. I can want all day long and twice on Sunday and still not truly want for anything because the Lord is my shepherd. Want and need are two different things. As a child of God, I really do have all that I need so my wishlist of extras is not really a need. As parents, we don’t give our children everything they want because half the time, what they want isn’t good for them and certainly not what they need. Why would God be different? In His perfect love for us, He knows that our wishlists are filled with things that won’t turn out to be good for us, so He doesn’t give in and give them to us just to make us stop pestering Him for them.
All of this led me to a much different type of list. Now my wishlist is filled with thanks and needs. Lord, thank you for bringing such a wonderful pet and companion into our lives. Thank you for giving us eight healthy years with her. Thank you for her gentle spirit as she taught the kids much about gentleness and taught all of us about unconditional love. My only plea is that when the time comes for us to let her go, please give us the strength to do what is right and not cause her to suffer because we can’t let go.