How audacious to claim, “I have life without lack because the Lord is my shepherd.” That’s the point of Psalm 23 according to Dallas Willard in his new book Life Without Lack.
But I feel many examples of lack in my life and so do you. Is the poet and singer of Psalm 23 living in the real world? He’s living in the most real world!
It all hinges on our view of the Shepherd of Psalm 23. “Forget everything you think you know about God,” Jesus says. “I’m going to tell you what he’s really like.” (Life Without Lack, pp. 24-25)
Jesus eats meals with the outcasts, feeds the hungry, heals the sick, defends the poor against their oppressors, and tells stories to invite all people to join him in his Father’s world, the Kingdom of the Heavens.
Here are a few of Jesus’ stories to help everyone feel loved by God:
God is like a friend who gets out of bed in the middle of the night to give bread to a neighbor who knocks on his door. (Luke 11:5-8)
God is like an employer who feels compassion for the migrant worker who couldn’t get hired all day and so at the last hour before dinner he finds him work and then pays him a full day’s wage! (Matthew 20:1-16)
God is like a judge who works late to defend a little old widow. She doesn’t have an appointment and she’s making a nuisance of herself with her crying and begging, but he upholds her case and delivers her. (Luke 18:1-8)
God is like a rich man who throws a huge party at his palace and he sends out messengers to invite everyone to come — including the poor folk way out in the country who don’t feel eligible. (Luke 14:15-24)
God is like a shepherd who searches high and low and risks his life to find his lost sheep. Finding her, he puts her atop his shoulders and skips and sings through the town, “Look! I found my sheep that I love!” (Luke 15:4-7)
God is an Abba who can’t stop hugging and kissing his wayward prodigal son who has finally come back home. He showers him with gifts and exclaims to everyone, “Let’s have a feast and celebrate!” (Luke 15:11-32)
That’s a lot of parties! Those are people in the grip of a great happiness!
To live in the abounding and eternal joy of Jesus there are three things to do:
- Trust God to be like Jesus (and his stories about his Father)
- Relinquish all your desires to make the Lord your one desire
- Love others as God loves you
Dallas Willard calls this the “Triangle of Sufficiency.” (I unpack these concepts in our “Triangle of Soul Transformation” that is the basis of my book Your Best Life in Jesus’ Easy Yoke.)
Imagine living with confidence and delight in an all-sufficient God… You won’t worry about what others say about you… You won’t fear not having enough… You won’t be bitter about a past relationship… You won’t resent being passed over for a job promotion… You won’t be ashamed when people shun you. (Life Without Lack, pp. 144-145)
Of course, we all have emotions about these trials and need empathy from God and a friend. But then we can bring our disappointments and hurts into the embrace of Jesus and his Abba.
In Jesus’ arms of love we’re in the grip of a great happiness!