I heard a story about a shepherd a while ago that has stuck with me. I have recounted the story a number of times, and recently recounted it to a brother of mine who is struggling. I believe that it is an accurate portrayal of the love that our Savior has shown to us – especially during times of struggling, trouble, and heartache. If there is an author to this story, I don’t know. If you happen to read this and know who wrote it, please do let me know and I will give credit to the person. Here goes the best recollection that my faulty memory can afford:
There once was a shepherd of a flock with a very large number of sheep in his care. For the most part, this shepherd routinely managed his flock without incidence. However, there was one particular sheep that continually ran off and get into dangerous situations. One time, this sheep found himself on the edge of a very steep cliff. Should he have not been recalled so swiftly by the shepherd, he would most likely have fallen to his death.
The shepherd decided to break one of the hind legs of that sheep. For months, he carried the sheep as it bemoaned the agony of a severe injury along the bumpy paths that the shepherd took to lead his flock to pastures of food and water. Eventually, the sheep healed enough to walk, but would never again run away. He hobbled, but remained close to his shepherd’s side at all times. He relied on the shepherd to help him make it up steep hills and would sleep very near his side. He never left the shepherd, and the shepherd never pushed the sheep away from him.
Anyone who has suffered in this world can apply this story to himself. Anyone who is a sinner, too. We, who have struggled, are the sheep that have followed our own path. The Old Testament Prophet Isaiah records this: “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6a). Just like the sheep that have gone too close to the edge, we touch the fire all to often. If you’re like me, sometimes you not only touch the fire, you hold your hand to the flame and are rewarded with serious burns.
But that’s only one side of this story in my mind, and only half of the verse from Isaiah. If we leave off there, we don’t get a chance to focus on what’s really important: the Shepherd.
Jesus said: “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father” (John 10:14-18).
When we focus only on the broken hind leg, we miss the fact that it is not up to us to decide what is good for us. God doesn’t treat us according to what we deserve. If that were the case, then all of us would be headed straight to hell without any turning back. Focus on the Shepherd, who “lays down his life” for his sheep. We have a Savior that loved us enough to live and die and rise again for us. He now lives to interact in every intersection of our life for our future security in heaven. We have been given salvation and already have all things through faith in him.
The broken bones heal. God gives us this time of grace where we will be hurt and injured. But in those times, God comes close to us and carries us. He puts us on his shoulders and gently carries us. He puts us on the same shoulders that bore the cross up the hill to die. His shoulders can bear us through anything. In all things, we are confident because we are so close to him.