Isaac Watts and Psalm 23

Today I was out taking pictures of pretty things that I could use for the blog, and I found a butterfly and some shadows and the Ouachita river. I liked it so much that I sat there for a while; not pictured is the birdsong, or the river’s rippling, or the too-friendly mosquitos. For some reason I started thinking of a hymn that I and my family have always loved–My Shepherd Will Supply My Need, by Isaac Watts. It doesn’t get sung too often in my church, because it’s one of those hymns that not as many people know, I guess. Which is a shame, cause it’s really good.

I thought I’d reprint it here, in case you’ve never heard it, or in case you have heard it and want to be reminded of the words. They’re worth remembering.

My shepherd will supply my need:
Jehovah is His name;
In pastures fresh He makes me feed,
Beside the living stream.
He brings my wandering spirit back
When I forsake His ways,
And leads me, for His mercy’s sake,
In paths of truth and grace.

When I walk through the shades of death
Thy presence is my stay;
One word of Thy supporting breath
Drives all my fears away.
Thy hand, in sight of all my foes,
Doth still my table spread;
My cup with blessings overflows,
Thine oil anoints my head.

The sure provisions of my God
Attend me all my days;
O may Thy house be my abode,
And all my work be praise.
There would I find a settled rest,
While others go and come;
No more a stranger, nor a guest,
But like a child at home.

And, then, because I think it somehow makes it better,

Amen.

Read it again, slowly. Actually, read it as many times as you want–I’ll wait.

I guess one reason I love Psalm 23 so much is that it reminds me that I may rest in God–that not everything is one hard struggle after another. I’m all too prone to perfectionism; I want to get things right, and be correct, and perfect. I also tend to see certain things in black and white, while at the same time playing the “believing game” like the good little English major I am.

In other words, every time I hear a different viewpoint, my world shakes a little, as I try to reconcile it with what I thought before. Oh the angst of trying to believe as many as five competing ideas simultaneously.

Currently the angst is in the theological realm. There are a lot of opinions about how to know God, what He’s like, and what He’s not like. And I want to seek the truth and know God, I think, but sometimes it’s all I can do to not go around all day with my forehead crinkled up and frowning because there is so much I don’t understand.

Now, I get frustrated, myself, with all the Christian literature out there that tries to pinpoint what the “most important” aspects of the Christian faith are–what’s the critical thing to focus on, I mean. I don’t understand how you can condense it like that, into three easy steps, or five main tenets of whatever. I guess it helps people, to focus on certain things at certain times, and so I guess I understand why there are books about worry, and doubt, and conviction, and, well, everything.

Is it the same reason there are Psalms in the Bible about pretty much anything?

What I mean is, it’s weird to me that we separate out life into different seasons, but at the same time I get why we do that. Life is too big and too messy for us to process it all at once, so we face problems as they come. We don’t profess to know the answers for every situation

We know where the answers come from, though.

I have no idea where I was going with this. I apologize. I think maybe I was going to encourage you, if, like me, you happen to be having an angst-y time of trying to know God, that you can rest in what we do know of Him. We know that He is great, that He is good.

But since this post was so disorganized, I think you’d better go back and just read the hymn again. Thanks for reading:)

 

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