Surely goodness and mercy

Psalm 23:6 “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life”

It is fear of the future that is perhaps the greatest source of anxiety in all the world.  Rather than look back at how God has brought us through whatever situations we have faced in life and have a resolved trust because of it, our tendency can be to forget all that and fear what’s coming around the next bend.  2020 has been a year that bears this out in many lives.  Anxiety, depression, and suicide are skyrocketing as people look at the future and just can’t find much, if any, hope.  Yet, over and over again the Bible tells believers in Christ to have great hope as they look to the future rather than fear.  As Jesus told us in the Sermon on the Mount, “do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (Matthew 6:25-33).”  Notice Jesus’ emphasis here on the future, i.e., anxiety about such things as what you WILL eat or what you WILL drink or what you WILL wear.  He urges us, in light of His commitment to care for us, to be like the birds or even the lilies, neither of which have the capacity to worry. And then we have the wonderful words from the 23rd Psalm above. This psalm is so well known that we can hear the words and not really think about them . . . but oh how we should! What does David, who wrote these words, say to us?  What does he confidently assert, this man that had been through such incredible trials and difficulties in his life, things like facing the giant Goliath, being hunted like an animal by murderous King Saul, and betrayed by his own son, Absalom? Does he look back at these troubles and, because of them, fear the future. The answer is “No!”  Rather, he looks at how God’s mercy has held him up in incredible ways through each and every trial he has faced. And through it all he has come to know and trust in the character of God more and more. As he looks to the future, fear doesn’t grip his heart. He is confident that it is not destruction that is coming around the next bend, but the incredible goodness and mercy of God. And how long will this goodness and mercy hold out?  “All the days of my life.”  The greatest wonder of it all, for the believer, is that our lives will never end.  Likewise, God’s goodness and mercy will never end.  We can look to the future with great anticipation, rather than with fear and anxiety, if we focus our minds not on the trouble that is sure to come (for “man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward (Job 5:7)”) but on the Great Shepherd whose goodness and mercy will follow us just as surely. Isn’t that an awesome truth? Isn’t that a glorious thought?  It’s the truth that the Christian is not to be one who is “waiting for the other shoe to drop” but one who is waiting for God’s mercy to fall, for “his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth (Hosea 6:3).” And it’s a truth that the God Who made us urges us to dwell upon, for it is rooted in the absolute assurance of what He has said.  May God help us to fix our thoughts not on our troubles and the fear and anxiety that such a fixation can bring, but on the absolute Truth of the Word of God, Truth that will “endure forever (1 Peter 1:25),” Truth that will out-endure each and every trouble that may come.

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