One of the joys of my commute to work is cycling across a large common where a small herd of cows roams freely. I love the way they lounge so happily in the morning sun, well fed and contented in their lazy lifestyle.
Having worked on a dairy farm, I’ve come to realise that for all their stubbornness, cows are exceptionally brilliant in one area: they never worry about the future.
In the spring, farmers prepare the ground to grow crops. They check the weather incessantly. They wonder if the feed left over from the previous year will last until the new year’s crop is ready. Meanwhile, cows contentedly chew their cud after breakfast.
In the summer, farmers work endlessly, hands and arms full of straw-splinters after hours of throwing bales. They wipe the sweat from their brow and spend the longer daylight hours fixing, cleaning, washing, painting and building all the things they cannot do in the winter. Meanwhile, cows swish their tails against the flies without a care in the world.
In the autumn, the sileage ferments and the barns and food supplies are readied for the winter. Meanwhile, cows take peaceful naps in the cooling weather.
In the winter, farmers fix things that need mending, plan for the spring and pull on insulated overalls against the wind and the rain. Meanwhile, cows snuggle down, warming themselves in the straw.
There are hundreds of other things farmers do, always with an eye to the future. But my point is this: the farmers think, work and plan ahead, putting in hour upon hour of hard labour, all so that the cows can simply bat their pretty eyelashes day in, day out. If the cows didn’t have farmers, perhaps they would have to worry a bit more, but they do, so they don’t.
And all of that has helped me grasp the comfort of Psalm 23:1 just a little bit better – even though the animal pictured here is a sheep, rather than a cow.
“The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.”
Savour those words.
“The LORD” – this name for God was used only once a year, on the Day of Atonement. This is Jehovah – God, the Almighty One. This is the God who cares for me.
“My shepherd” – He is my shepherd. He is watching over me. He sees me; he knows me by name. His care of me is personal.
“I lack nothing” – If he were not my shepherd, I might want so many things. I might want answers to big questions. I might want certainty in an uncertain world. I might want to know that I will, without a doubt, be ok. I might want to know where I will be in ten years or what things my family might face in the future.
But the LORD is my shepherd, and so I lack nothing. To paraphrase Romans 8:32, if this shepherd did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for me, how will he not also graciously give me all that I need for this life?
How that quiets my fearful questions and refreshes my soul. My shepherd is watching over me, and sometimes that is all I need to know to lie down and rest, rather like those cows do.