He’s so tired he can barely walk. It’s been a busy week. Well, actually it’s been a busy stretch of weeks and months that seem like years without a break.
His feet ache. His arms are so sore that if there was snow, he’d be unable to make a snow angel. He can barely reach above his head. If he got down on the ground, he’s not sure he has the strength to get back up.
His legs are weak and wobbly. He’s walked for miles at a time, lifted sheep out of precarious places and then walked some more for what seems like an eternity. His feet are numb.
The shepherd pulls them from thickets where they easily enter, but no matter how hard they try, reverse just doesn’t work. In fact, the more they struggle, the more stuck they become. As they panic, they get deeper into the thicket. It always looks like an impossible situation. And it would be for most. But not for this shepherd. He can work miracles.
But the sheep doesn’t think about that, especially when he’s stuck.
He doesn’t think about how he’ll get out of the mess he’s gotten himself into before he gets into the mess. Nope, she just dives head first into whatever’s nearby, never thinking about consequences. It’s part of his nature. To act and then to have the leisure time to regret the predicament he finds himself in.
That’s when it becomes dangerous. Oh, not because she’s hungry or thirsty or afraid. Even though she is. Not because night’s coming and he knows that soon the light will be gone. He doesn’t like being alone in the dark. Not because the temperature is dropping and she’s getting cold. Not even because there are predators around, just waiting for her to tire. It’s as if from far away, they can smell the struggle. The fear. The panic.
No, there’s something much worse. He gives up hope. So completely. So easily. She stops trying, thinking, “What’s the use?” He’s resigned to the belief that he’s doomed. She’s already written the ending to her troubled life. He’s already seeing the writing on the wall, not realizing that he’s the one holding the pen.
Sound familiar? Do you know people like this? They make a mess of their life. Always getting into unhealthy situations. Trouble seems to find him and pick on him. She doesn’t know how to turn away from Trouble. In fact, she does the opposite. He walks right up to Trouble and shakes its hand. She puts out the welcome mat and bakes cookies. He treats Trouble like he’s a king. Then they’re surprised when Trouble moves in to stay.
Sometimes they don’t recognize Trouble until it’s too late. Trouble dresses up in nice clothes, throws around money, and says nice things that she wants to hear. Trouble compliments him in just the right way, stroking his ego.
I think many of us have been in this situation. We’ve dove into something without thinking it through. We’ve walked right up to Trouble and hugged him.
Trouble has another name. Sin. Embracing sin is nothing new. It started in the Garden of Eden when Eve listened to the serpent. She should have said, “Get away from me! I’m not listening to you!”
Sin was present when Adam listened to Eve and ate of the forbidden fruit. He should have stood up and spoken the truth. “No, Eve. We have to trust the Lord. Let’s tell him what you’ve done. He’ll help us.”
But neither of them decided to trust the Lord who created them. Who walked with them in the garden. Who loved them with an everlasting love. So what do they do? They hide from God.
We do that, too. We’re like the lost sheep in Luke 15. We get into trouble and when we can’t get help ourselves, we lose hope. We become depressed. We stay in our thicket of sin believing that there’s no way out.
But then it happens. She hears a noise. A footstep. One he knows well. The shepherd’s coming! He really is. The weary shepherd who’s just finished counting his sheep all the way up to 99. When he realizes that one’s missing, he leaves the 99 in search of the one who’s lost.
The Shepherd hears her cries. He runs on weary legs. He suddenly has the strength of a hundred mountain lions. He frees her from the thicket and places her on his shoulders. He lovingly carries her home. She’s forever grateful. She knows the truth. He left the 99 to rescue her.
He’ll do the same for you. You simply have to ask. “You have not because you ask not” (James 4:2).
Kathy Yoder is a devotional writer. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.