Psalm 23 is a passage that many people love because of the comforting imagery of the Lord being our shepherd in difficult and painful moments. And He is. He restores and cares for His own. He provides for His sheep, His people. And He leads. But notice where the Scripture promises us that He leads us.
He leads me in paths of righteousness… (v. 3)
He does not promise to lead us in paths of prosperity or popularity, paths of comfort or temporary happiness. He promises to lead us in paths of righteousness, which means God will sometimes lead us into pain and discomfort for our holiness. And this is good for us. It is good because in those moments we hold tightly to Him and in those moments we are conformed more to the image of His Son. This results in our joy.
He leads me to discomfort? How is this good of Him and good for us?
My oldest daughter, Eden (4), was in a preschool program a few mornings a week last school year. Eden is so sweet, but she is also a bit shy. Kaye and I spent weeks preparing her for the program, talking to her about her moments on stage with her friends and praying with her for God’s courage. I left the office to attend the program and walked in the back ready to see her conquering the moment.
As I walked into the foyer of the auditorium, Eden’s class was in line in the foyer. All her friends were playing and laughing. But Eden was frozen stiff. I walked up behind her, and when she saw me, she just lost it completely. She started crying and begging me to take her out of that moment. I walked her to the side corridor, held her, prayed with her, and tried to encourage her.
But there was no calming her down. She was begging to leave. I wrestled with pulling her out of that moment. What would it matter if she missed her four-year-old Christmas performance? But I knew that would not be best for her. It would have been more comfortable and less painful for her but not the best for her. As her class line started to walk from the foyer into the auditorium, I grabbed her hand and led her back into line.
I led my daughter into pain. For her good.
I sat there watching the performance with my heart breaking yet knowing the moment was developing Eden. Several months later was Eden’s graduation (see the pic…that is cupcake icing on her chin). At her graduation, she did not need me to walk her on stage. She did not lose it in the foyer. She was still shy, but not terrified. Still cautious, but much more confident than she was a few months ago. I had to lead her through pain to get her to that place.
In the same way, God sometimes leads His people through pain to get us to righteousness.