Goodness and Mercy

I can’t help thinking about my future with Parkinson’s disease. Frankly, some of the information I’ve been given is depressing to read. I prefer to live one day at a time and try not to let Parkinson’s define me. I intend to stay as active as I can for as long as I can. I’ve continued to play racquetball, tremor and all. Today I rode my bike for fourteen miles around Lake Hefner. It was great. I feel alive.

Since I received my diagnosis, I have been meditating on Psalm 23 and writing about it on this site. The assurances offered by this inspired poem have  given me renewed confidence in the Good Shepherd who faithfully watches over his sheep. He is watching over me.

The psalmist, David, a shepherd himself, wrote, “Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever (v.6).” Here are promises for time, and eternity, for this life, and for the afterlife. “All the days of my life” means just that. All the days, whether they are days of health or days of disability. Whatever changes may be ahead, the promise is that the Lord’s goodness and covenant love (mercy) will shepherd me.

I have heard the Lord’s goodness and mercy compared to sheep dogs that guard and pursue the sheep, rounding them up to protect them and to keep them from straying. These strong, intelligent, well-trained animals move the sheep along to pasture at the command of their master, the shepherd.

The word “surely” implies certainty. The certainty is not that life will always be easy or pleasant. The certainty is that God’s character and promises never fail. His nature does not change. His goodness and mercy will pursue me like sheep dogs, all my days on earth, and beyond.

Speaking of “beyond,” there is a truth here that gives assurance of immortality. Death, to David, is not the end of the story. Even the grave cannot deprive him of the hope of eternal life. His words, “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever,” point forward to a promise of Jesus: “My Father’s house has many rooms . . . I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14: 2-3).

David is writing about the future, eternity.¬† He is grateful for the Lord’s faithful care throughout all the days of his life. Now he knows he will be cared for after he dies, in an eternal home in the presence of the Lord.

I once heard a radio interview featuring folks who were describing memories of their childhood homes. They talked about kitchens, furniture, musical instruments, bedrooms and gardens. But it was not those things that stood out most prominently. It was the people who inhabited their homes. They told about following Mom around in the kitchen, waiting for Dad to come home, pillow fights, family meals, and holiday reunions with extended family members. They were saying that home is what it is because of the people who are there.

That is what David had in mind as he closed the 23rd Psalm. He was looking forward to an eternal home in the presence of the Lord. “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” can surely be taken to mean an afterlife for the believer in actual communion with God. His goodness and unfailing love are expressions of his eternal character. They pursue God’s sheep through death into eternal life.

True fellowship with God is what is offered. The Christian understanding is that this is possible because of the Good Shepherd, Jesus, who laid down his life for his sheep, and who has gone ahead to his Father’s house to prepare a place for them.

I hope you can say with certainty that you know that you too have an eternal home in the house of the Lord. It is available to you if your faith is in the Lord Jesus.

Pastor Randy Faulkner