Dec 20

“The Lord is my shepherd” or “I’m on my own”?

2011 | by Trent Hunter | Category: Sermon Follow-Up

In Sunday’s sermon, “A Perfect Shepherd for Needy Sheep,” Ryan unpacked a familiar text, Psalm 23. David opens this psalm with the often memorized line, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”

One way to think hard about a psalm like this is to think about what life would be like if everything it says were not true. What if we couldn’t say, “The Lord is my shepherd”?

As an exercise in thinking through the significance of Psalm 23, David Powlison wrote this anti-Psalm 23, which Ryan read at the end of his sermon:

I’m on my own. No one looks out for me or protects me.
I experience a continual sense of need. Nothing’s quite right.
I’m always restless. I’m easily frustrated and often disappointed.
It’s a jungle — I feel overwhelmed. It’s a desert — I’m thirsty.
My soul feels broken, twisted, and stuck. I can’t fix myself.
I stumble down some dark paths.
Still, I insist: I want to do what I want, when I want, how I want.
But life’s confusing. Why don’t things ever really work out?
I’m haunted by emptiness and futility — shadows of death.
I fear the big hurt and final loss.

Death is waiting for me at the end of every road,
. . .but I’d rather not think about that.
I spend my life protecting myself. Bad things can happen.
I find no lasting comfort. I’m alone
.. .facing everything that could hurt me.
Are my friends really friends?
Other people use me for their own ends.
I can’t really trust anyone. No one has my back.
No one is really for me — except me.
And I’m so much all about me, sometimes it’s sickening.
I belong to no one except myself.
My cup is never quite full enough. I’m left empty.
Disappointment follows me all the days of my life.
Will I just be obliterated into nothingness?
Will I be alone forever, homeless, free-falling into void?
Sartre said, “Hell is other people.” I have to add, “Hell is also myself.”
It’s a living death, and then I die.