The word sounds too good to be true. Contentment. It feels out of reach because it sounds out of touch. The world mistakes content people for the unambitious, lazy, and weak. Yet finding contentment comes from God.
In our hectic lives, trying to find contentment feels like finding the horizon. Always there, but always out of reach.
We need to reframe the picture.
Using the picture of a shepherd, the Old and New Testaments point to the Lord as the only one who offers contentment—and how to find it.
Three steps can take you there.
Finding Contentment When Life Feels Easy
Psalm 23 shows up most often at funerals. But David’s words offer more than comfort for the grieving. They offer a powerful picture for life.
David knew the hills east of Bethlehem gave the best access to the grass in the Judean Wilderness. In the late winter and early spring, its fields burst open with a thin blanket of lush, green grass and wildflowers.
These same slopes today still bear the marks of countless hooves that have worn paths on the hills for generations. Like terraces, dozens of tracks encircle each hill. Each flock has its own path to walk, and they stay on track for one reason: they follow their shepherd’s lead. The Lord leads us on these “paths of righteousness for His namesake” (Psalm 23:3).
In such a setting, it seems easy to feel contentment. After all, when God leads like this, we need nothing else. We shall not want. Finding contentment comes easy.
But God’s leading doesn’t always go through green pastures.
Finding Contentment When Life Feels Hard
Notice how the Lord’s leading us through “paths of righteousness” (v. 3) comes just before our walking “through the valley of the shadow of death” (v. 4).
God’s leading takes us there as well.
Those valleys of life are the times finding contentment proves tough.
But observe how David’s proximity to the Lord changes in the valley.
- In verses 1–3, he speaks about the Lord: “He makes … He leads … He restores … He guides.”
- But in verses 4-5, David shifts to speaking to the Lord: “You are with me … Your rod … Your staff … You prepare … You have anointed.”
One more perspective, added to these two, offer three steps to finding contentment.
Gimme Three Steps
In front of us and beside us, the Lord leads and walks. But looking behind us, we see something following as well: goodness and lovingkindness.
- Look ahead of you (vv. 1-3). When you look ahead, you God leading you on His well-worn tracks of righteousness. Green pastures, quiet waters, and soul-restoring moments only come from His leading. Picturing ourselves walking on God’s pathway offers an essential lesson in security. Finding contentment comes from finding security.
- Look beside you (vv. 4-5). we see Him with us through the worst of valleys that would otherwise cause us fear and despair. It’s easy to see goodness and mercy in green pasture days. But we struggle to see them in the valleys. But as soon as God leads into the valley, the perspective changes from a Shepherd who leads to one who walks beside us. God walks with us in the valleys, urging us to keep going when despair tempts us to give up.
- Look behind you (v. 6). Did you notice something following you? When you look back, you see God’s “goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” The Lord’s goodness and mercy always follow, but sometimes it takes looking back to realize no day proved an exception. Goodness and mercy trailed you “all the days.”
The Good Shepherd’s Promise
Psalm 23 comes from the perspective of a sheep. But Jesus gives us the perspective of the Good Shepherd who so cares for His sheep He lays down His life for them.
Ultimately, the security of our future finds its hope in the promise of the Good Shepherd Himself. Jesus said:
My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one. —John 10:27–30
Both Psalm 23 and John 10 offer us a picture of our security with God. The security of your salvation rests on the promise of God, not on the thin hopes of human achievement. Your relationship with God has security because of Him.
As a follower of the Good Shepherd, Jesus, no valley of death and no person—including yourself—can snatch you from God’s hand.
- In front of you, His leading
- Beside you, His comfort
- Behind you, His goodness and grace
As you follow God today through the pasture or through the valley, remember: you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Contentment comes from security.
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