God’s goodness and mercy have been chasing you all the days of your life. Following you, pursuing you. Wherever you have been and wherever you go next, know that God’s goodness and mercy is always your companion, always available, and never in short supply.
Are there stipulations to this? Like, if you’re a good person? If you pray every day? If you are a member of the church? If you have been baptized? If you don’t cuss? If you read your Bible? If you don’t watch the Tiger King? I mean I need to know ya’ll. What’cha gotta do for this?
How do you earn goodness and mercy in your life?
The scripture is the final verse of the 23 Psalm. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life …” What’s the beginning? “The Lord is my shepherd …”
The stipulation isn’t on you honey. This really isn’t about you. You are the sheep. God is the shepherd. Goodness and mercy is the result of who God is, not how you’re performing.
A shepherd cares for his sheep because of who he is, not because there’s one sheep that’s really sweet, or really good, or really pretty. That’s absurd.
Yet if you think about it, isn’t that the condition we tie to receiving God’s goodness and mercy? I’ve got to whip myself into shape! Maybe if I pray more or promise to go to Church when this is all over, then I can be deserving of more of God’s goodness. He will be merciful to me when I’m faithful to him.
That sounds good. It even sounds right in our heads. That makes sense. But faithfulness is for our benefit, not his. Our faithfulness allows struggles to create growth. Our faithfulness brings harvest out of seeds.
But our faithfulness doesn’t bring out the good in God, he’s good without us. And if he is good without our faithfulness, that means he can be good when we’ve been bad. When we’ve been wrong. When we’ve strayed, he’s still good.
The shepherd is good to his sheep when they are obediently laying down in the green pastures or grazing by the still waters. But he is also good when the sheep wanders off into the wilderness and gets herself in trouble. In fact, what does the shepherd do when one stubborn sheep wanders off?
Jesus tells us in Matthew 18:12-13 “If a man has 100 sheep and 1 of them wanders away, what will he do? Won’t he leave the 99 others on the hills and go out to search for the 1 that is lost? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he will rejoice over it more than over the 99 that didn’t wander away.”
Jesus is talking about our relationship with him. He’s saying “this isn’t about you being good enough or you earning my love, this is about the power of my love no matter what. Wander away, I will chase after you. Get lost, I will find you. And when I bring you back to the place where I have for you, I will celebrate you.”
SURELY goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.
Surely. When David wrote this, his words were intentional. He didn’t say maybe there will be goodness. Hopefully I will have some mercy. Possibly, if I get on the right path and stay there. There was absolute certainty here. SURELY. It’s a done deal. It is true. God’s goodness and mercy are following you.
Following you. How do you see what is following you? You stop and turn around.
What if all this time the good shepherd has been following you in your lost wandering, and all you had to do was stop and turn around. Right here sister, just stop. Let his goodness and mercy catch you and sweep you up.
I’m that mom who lost a few of her kids in the store … more than once. Heck, I’m that girl who continually loses her husband in the store still today. (Well, not today because we don’t have the luxury of getting lost in the Target these days, but you know what I mean.) Without fail I’m wandering around with that lost look and a store employee will say, “Ma’am, can I help you find something.” Yes, my husband!
So you know what I do, I whip out my cell phone and ring him up. “Babe, where you at, I’ve been wandering around looking for you.” His reply 99% of the time, “yeah, I know I saw you walking right by the isle several times, I’ve been right here. Turn around.”
Ya’ll how did we shop with our families before cell phones? “Hey, where you at, I can’t find you.”
You know how we get found … we stop and turn around.
In the trail of dust behind you is God saying “here, I can make something good of this. I can fix this.” And he does. Gosh he is faithful to make something good out of the things I have messed up.
He’s sure to always be there. SURELY. If you’ve been wandering around this week, I promise he’s there. Not because of anything you have or haven’t done. Just because he’s a good shepherd and that’s what good shepherds do. And that’s what he will keep doing.
But, here’s a thought … what if we quit wandering away. What if we stayed close to the shepherd and trusted his guidance fully? What if instead of him making something beautiful out of our messes, we followed him so we could step into the beauty in front of us as he has always planned? What if our next step was the step of obedience instead of defiance?
Maybe it’s not even so much defiance we’re dealing with, but doubt. We have a lot of doubt right now so our steps are uncertain and delayed. But what if we let the good shepherd lead the way and we just stay close. His goodness and mercy have been chasing me, but now I’m going to let him catch me. I’m going to let him hold me tight. I’m going to let him guide me.
I’m stopping to see what has been following me. I will not wander another step on my own. I can’t.
David reminded us his goodness and mercy are absolutely certain, and they are certain for ALL of our days. It doesn’t say “some” of our days, our good days or lucky days. No, ALL of our days. His goodness and mercy will follow us ALL of our days.
Even on the days when we wake up late. Even on the days after we failed to do our best on the day before. Even on the days when it is dark and hard and scary. ALL OUR DAYS. All our days we have the offering of his goodness and mercy.
The Message translation says it like this “Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life.”
Not his wrath or punishment. Not his big stick to beat you over the head. Not shame or guilt. No, it’s his beauty and love. Let him catch you. Let him swoop you up.
Today. This day, right here in middle of this hard week where reality seems totally unreal, let his beauty and love catch you.
If we were to call God and say “God, where have you been, I’ve been wandering around all this time looking for you”, much like my husband in the Walmart he would say “I’ve seen you and I’ve been right here. Turn around.”
Lord, you are my good shepherd, please help me to stop wandering away. Teach me to stay close to you.