Psalm 23 is quite possibly the most popular song in the entire Old Testament hymnal. It is the most requested at funerals, the most recited in times of despair and in thanksgiving. Children and elders alike know it by heart: “The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want.”
Even non- Christians and unbelievers are familiar with this passage of scripture. It is a comforting image, a promise we all want to believe in, that there is someone looking out for us—no matter where we find ourselves. But what happens when you feel like the Lord is not your shepherd?
I know, I know. This is not a part of the lyrics, not the way that you remember it. We cannot get the original version out of our head. It may seem blasphemous to even suggest that there is a time when any believer might feel as if they are without a shepherd.
But I have been there and I am certain that I am not alone partly because of a book titled Shepherd Leadership: Wisdom for Leaders from Psalm 23. The authors, Blaine McCormick and David Davenport, write in a chapter titled “Shepherds Know the Valley” these alternative verses:
“I am a sheep without a shepherd. I do not know whom to follow—and I am utterly in want. I am empty. Nothing satisfies. Nothing refreshes me. I find no real fulfillment. No lasting security. No real rest. I feel like a lost soul—totally, irretrievably depleted.”
If you are here, you have a shepherd who knows the feeling and knows where to find you. Jesus knows the valley of the shadow of death like the back of his bleeding hand.