In my last post, I began a five-part series on how to minimize stress in your life by avoiding five things, using Psalm 23 as a guide. Last time we looked at how worry affects us and how to avoid it.
The second thing to avoid is running on empty.
Psalm 23:2 – “He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters.”
David gives us a picture of nourishment and rest. Sheep cannot continue on the journey without sufficient rest and food, so the shepherd brings his sheep to green pastures and makes them lie down. The literal meaning of this verse is He interrupts me to make me lie down.
We often just keep going and going and we push ourselves to the point of exhaustion. We feel like we have so much to do that we can’t possibly stop for nourishment and rest. So we run on empty. God has to make us stop and lie down in green pastures.
In Phillip Keller’s book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, he says it is impossible for sheep to lie down unless four things are true.
1. They must be free from hunger. If they’re hungry, they won’t lie down.
2. They must be free from fear. Sheep are helpless, timid animals with little means of defending themselves. So they are easily frightened.
3. They must be free from friction. Sheep get into fights with each other. They can’t lie down if there is tension with other sheep. The tension keeps them on their feet so they can defend themselves.
4. They must be free from pests. Flies, parasites, and other pests seek to torment them, and the sheep can be easily aggravated and distracted by these pests.
So what can we, as sheep, do to keep ourselves free from these four things that hinder us from lying down in green pastures and beside still waters?
To keep us free from hunger, we need to feast on the Word of God daily. Let His Word fill you up so you’re not running on empty. When you lie down, you can rest on the promises of His Word that you’ve just feasted on.
To keep us free from fear, we need to keep our eyes on our Shepherd and stay close by Him.
To keep us free from friction, we need to resolve those tensions between us and other sheep in the flock.
To keep us free from pests, we need to let our Shepherd care for us and remove the pests out of our lives. Some examples of pests that make us miserable are bitterness, failure, feeling of inadequacy, greed, a critical spirit, a sense of shame.
I’m going to add a fifth thing that keeps us from lying down: we must be free from busyness. We’re too busy to stop. Busyness is caused by a misdirected heart, not a misdirected schedule. We are focused on the wrong priorities. So to free ourselves from the tyranny of busyness, we need to redirect our hearts – to Him, not our to-do lists.
So how do you avoid running on empty? Rest in the Shepherd. Trust that He will care for you, provide for you, protect you, and nourish you. Rest in Him. Lie down in green pastures and beside still waters.
Are you running on empty?