by Pastor Matthew Bishop
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‘You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows’ (Psalm 23:5).
Not every enemy can be seen and heard. Mid-year, I officiated the funeral of a lady in her late 90s plagued by depression all her life. That’s a long time. It had taken a toll on both her and her loved ones. Like a steady drip, her illness had undermined stability in her relationships and outlook. Yet, in the way she lived her life, there was also much evidence of abundance. Sport, fun, and a sense of adventure helped to even things up.
As I wrote her funeral homily based on Psalm 23, I was reminded of just how much God provides for us in the presence of our enemies – whatever they are! For example, in depressive illnesses, the little gifts of joy God gives, when deliberately coupled with thanksgiving, can speak powerfully to interrupt the emptiness of the lived experience that is depression. Likewise, other ills, such as physical sickness, social exclusion, or broken relationships, can also feel like enemies. God interrupts that suffering, too, with various gifts where we have eyes and faith to see it.
Yet, as good as God’s provision for our bodies and minds is, it’s God’s soul-provision that overflows our cups in a different and ultimately better way: eternally. Jesus Christ is not just the Good Shepherd. He is also the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. By his birth, life, cross, and empty grave, he has given his sheep the green pasture beside his still water. Only goodness and mercy reign there. He invites us to make that gift our greatest joy. May we receive it with thanks, enemies and all.
Lord Jesus Christ, you are my good shepherd. I believe that you give me everything I need. Jesus, remind me of that when it seems my enemies are getting the better of my situation. Strengthen me in your Holy Spirit through who, together with you and your Father, I pray this prayer. Amen.