I'm a young mom with a house full of little ones. There are smudgy fingerprints on my walls and windows, tiny socks littering the hallways, and stacks of sticky dishes in the sink. My sleep is interrupted and cut short almost every night. Tears and tantrums abound. For every ounce of love I feel toward my children, I feel an equal amount of weariness. Truly, in our home, the days are long, and... the days are long.
But, weariness is not unique to me or my season. I've found that most of us are tired for one reason or another. Your reason may not be the same as mine. You may be wading through deep emotional strain or physical pain. You may be working around the clock at a high-stress job. Or maybe sleep evades you because the world weighs heavy on your mind when your head hits the pillow. Deep inner fatigue is an epidemic, no matter the source.
And we're all trying to figure out how to keep living our lives while horribly exhausted. Some of us add things to manage fatigue: strict schedules, healthy habits, self-help books. And some of us take a different approach by removing things from our life to make the load lighter: less time with friends, less busywork, fewer commitments. No matter the approach, we're all just trying to cope with the pace of life and find a rhythm that works for our body and soul. In times of weariness, it has been a tremendous comfort to me to remember God is a tender shepherd who gently leads. And I wonder if you might need this reminder, too?
Throughout Scripture, God is referred to as a shepherd who guides, feeds, and protects His people. The shepherd analogy is probably a bit lost on those of us who live urban lives. Shepherds are deeply committed to the care and keeping of their flock. And this is quite a demanding job because sheep are not particularly smart animals. For instance, if sheep graze in a pasture until it is barren, they will not move themselves to a new pasture with fresh grass even if it can be seen from where they currently stand. They will instead stay where they are and starve. Sheep need the care and guidance of a shepherd to live flourishing lives.
And shepherds know the survival of their sheep is entirely dependent on them. They keep a careful watch on the state of the pasture, discerning the precise moment a move to fresh fields is required. As they consider each possible new meadow and valley, they must factor in something very important: the pace their sheep can travel. There may be sick sheep, wounded sheep, stubborn sheep, or sheep nursing young lambs. These animals cannot travel at a grueling pace. If they do, the journey will kill them before they reach the lush new pasture. They must pick a pasture that has all the sheep need and can be reached at the pace the sheep can travel. We see an example of this in Genesis 33:13-14 when Jacob and Esau were traveling to find a new home.
Jacob replied, "My lord knows that the children are weak, and I have nursing flocks and herds. If they are driven hard for one day, the whole herd will die. Let my lord go ahead of his servant. I will continue on slowly, at a pace suited to the livestock and the children, until I come to my lord at Seir."
God is the Shepherd of all who believe in Jesus. They are His flock. He knows when we need to move and when we need to stay. He knows the spots where we try to push His perfect pace. He calculates our weariness and the way our aches and pains slow our steps. When God leads, He leads us gently, slowly, and surely to a place where we will flourish. Isaiah 40:11 describes this beautifully.
He protects his flock like a shepherd;
he gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them in the fold of his garment.
He gently leads those that are nursing.
Notice that some lambs need not even walk. The Shepherd carries them. Folded safely in the hem of His garment, wrapped in His arms, He will not leave behind a single one. Even the weakest of us are safe in His care. God is attentive to the unique needs of all who are in His flock. He individually cares for those who are faint, injured, or in a strenuous season.
What does this mean for you and me? It means God's pace is good, and we can trust where He's leading us.
To those who wish to rush ahead when God has said to wait, He's never slow. Trust His pace.
To those who are sure God is moving too quickly, He has planned every step with loving care and compassion. Trust His pace.
To those who feel crushed and unable to walk the road ahead, He will carry you. Trust His pace.
To us all, God is shepherding us well. Let's match our steps to God's rhythm, knowing He gently leads us in each and every season.