I am tempted to separate these two phrases. ‘The Lord is my shepherd’ and ‘I shall not want’. Last week I wrote about The Lord being my shepherd. This week the plan was to write about ‘I shall not want’ however, I am finding that impossible. I can talk about the Lord being my shepherd on its own but a part from him I can not figure out what this phrase ‘I shall not want’ could be communicating.
I can’t even begin to understand the phrase ‘I shall not want’ apart from the Lord being my shepherd because I could win a gold medal in wanting. Take right now as an example. Right at this very second I am wanting the 2 year old to take a nap, the dog to stop whining, my laundry to be done, my basement to not smell like a dog, and something for lunch. At times I am wanting something but I can’t even articulate what that something is. See.. I told you I am super good at wanting.
So what does it mean that I have a shepherd and that I shall not want?
WARNING: Chances are this will not have a ‘put a pretty bow on it answer’
It means I’m going to want for things but those things are not what my hope clings to.
It means if I don’t get the things I am wanting I won’t have to live in despair.
It means we can look to our shepherd when we are feeling the tugs and desires of our wants and we can not see them coming our way.
It means we are still going to want. But without our shepherd our wants would be where we place our hope. Since we have a shepherd we can look to him we do not need to rest our hope in the things we want.
How do we talk to our kids about wanting?
I could yell at my kids and say ‘YOU SHALL NOT WANT’ next time they are begging for the kindle. I could ask them ‘WHY ARE YOU WANTING A SNACK?? I FED YOU BREAKFAST!. I could just tell them to ‘Stop wanting so much and think of the kids in Africa.’ Do you know how each of these situations would end? Probably in tears. Mine or theirs or maybe both of ours.
Telling them to not want isn’t going to stop their wanting. Me telling them about some kid in Africa may produce tears for a few minutes if they are having a particularly empathetic day. And asking them why they are wanting will be fruitless.
So when our kids are wanting everything around them what should I tell them? ‘The Lord is your shepherd. You shall not want. Mom wants so many things too. Some of the things we want are things we need. Other things we want are just that, wants. Our wants may be good things but they are wants. Then I get to do what God put me in their lives to do…show them their shepherd Jesus. I get to show them their shepherd, remind them they are his because of their baptism, and tell them all about the big love he has for us and the hope we have because of that big love.
I get to remind myself and them what Paul knew and knows about Jesus. Paul was the man who claimed that he had learned contentment. Paul knew that Jesus was and is the over comer. Jesus tells us “in this world we will have trouble. But take heart. I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) It is so important to be honest with our children. I can not tell them that life will be sunshine and roses and I’m not going to just tell them to suck it up butter cup.
In Paul’s letter to the Philippians he tells them “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance. I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” It is a string of verses that we hear a lot about. We may even see the phrase “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” on workout t-shirts. Paul knew that being content was not something he could do on his own. He knew that he could be in each situation because of Christ who gives him strength. He could find contentment because his hope was in the over comer. Hope in Jesus was why he could write earlier in the book of Philippians “To live is Christ to die is gain.” To be content with life or death…wow.
I have no idea what my kids will come up against in this world. I will not and can not promise that life will always be rosy. Life could get hard, really hard. There might be times in their lives when the things they are wanting are things that people need. I can not give them a magic formula to make themselves stop wanting. If there was a magic formula I would have given each of us a good hearty serving of it already. We have something better than a magical spoonful of goodness to take. We have a shepherd who loves and cares for us dearly.