The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul. Psalm 23:1-3
When I think of a Psalm that provides an antidote to my anxiety I think of Psalm 23. It is a Psalm of God’s presence. A joyful recognition that God is present in the midst of all experiences. When we are experiencing joy and the goodness of ‘green pastures’ and ‘still waters’ we find ourselves present with this good shepherd. When we find ourselves deep in anxious moments this Psalm teaches us that God is present there, too.
There are a couple of verses that just jump out at me when I consider how this Psalm deals with my anxious experiences. In verse 3 the phrase ‘He restores my soul’ might find a literal translation somewhere close to ‘he returns me to my breathing!’ Have you noticed when you feel anxious your heart rate increases and you feel it’s harder to breathe? At least that is my experience. God promises to return us to our breathing! He brings back the calmness of our steady normal rhythm of inhaling and exhaling. When I’m stressed or anxious I find that listening to music at 70 beats per minute (the normal heart rate) and deep breathing helps me feel calm. They are practical ways through which I sense God restore my soul.
Finally, the wonderful verse 5 tells us that God ‘prepares a table for me in the presence of my enemies’! When I feel anxious I lose all desire to eat. My appetite disappears. With God as our shepherd we are invited to a banquet even when ‘enemies’ like anxiety feel close by!
He is a wonderful shepherd!
By Alex Walton