This week, I tripped over a whole new corner of the Internet – Ambient Noise websites! Having friends with babies, I knew that you could find white noise online, but I had no idea just how vast and varied the selection of available background sounds now is. Pining for social interaction? Stick on the ‘Cocktail party’ soundtrack. Struggling to concentrate whilst home working in an empty house? Play some ‘Calm Office’ sounds. Need help focussing on your homework? Immerse yourself in a Harry Potter Hogwarts soundscape, complete with crackling fire and quills scratching on parchment! I guess it’s just the modern equivalent of my Grandma keeping the TV on in the background ‘for company’ when she lived alone. We know it’s not actually the same as interacting with a real person, but there can be something comforting about the illusion that we’re not alone.
Even those of us who treasure silence know that complete aloneness is not good for us. We’re made to relate, to love and be loved. And so the only thing worse than suffering is feeling abandoned in our suffering. It’s hard enough to live in a world of sorrows and struggles, but it’s harder still to walk through those things with no-one to hold our hand.
It’s not surprising, then, that Psalm 23 is probably the best known of all the Psalms, recognised even by many who have never opened a Bible for themselves. It paints a beautiful picture of the journey of a sheep, safe in the care of a loving shepherd. Sometimes the route is delightful – green pastures, quiet waters. Sometimes it’s significantly less lovely – shadows and dark valleys and the looming presence of death. But always, the shepherd is with us.
So many of our everyday moments fall into their proper context when we remember that we are not the lone explorer, valiantly striding out to find our own path through life, providing for ourselves, with only our own resources to rely on. Rather, we are cherished creatures, designed to be led, provided for, comforted and encouraged by someone greater who knows the way and walks it with us.
“There’s a monster in the wardrobe”/“My best friend’s found a better friend”/“I got dropped from the team” – The shepherd is with me. Right here. Right now. He will never abandon me. I don’t have to deal with this on my own.
“It’s all so confusing”/“I don’t know how to fix it”/“I’m afraid of the future” – The shepherd is leading me. He knows the way. I just have to follow. His love and goodness are all around me. He will keep me safe.
“My holiday’s been cancelled – there’s nothing to look forward to”/“Everything’s so disappointing”/“What if it feels like this forever?” – The journey’s not over yet. The shepherd is taking me to be his guest at the best party ever. Even the greenest pastures in this world are nothing compared to living with God forever.
Whatever has happened, whatever will happen, we are never alone. Let’s dwell on Psalm 23 until that truth settles deep into our hearts. Let’s remind each other, and our children, of that truth as we walk together in the footsteps of our loving Lord Jesus, the Good Shepherd who is leading us home.
We have written a series of four Sunday School sessions to help our families work through this period of clear up. We have focused on four overwhelming emotions our children might be feeling. As with all our resources, we hope you will find these lessons flexible enough to suit your unique needs. Consider using them as the foundation for your church sermons and youth ministry. Use the ‘Parent Components’ to encourage conversations about these Psalms at home. If we can all learn together then we will surely be better at fighting the monsters together.