The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want (Psalm 23:1).
A segment on Monday morning’s Today Show featured an interview with Robert Pattinson, one of the stars of the insanely popular Twilight movie series based on Stephanie Meyers’ equally popular novels. The interviewer asked Pattinson if he ever thought about settling down and getting married – a question that undoubtedly burdens the mind of the American public.
Pattinson’s response was interesting. He answered by saying that he hoped that getting married wouldn’t necessarily mean settling down. Fortunately, he was able to acknowledge that marriage and monogamy inevitably involve a kind of “settling” – but the general drift of his answer suggested that “settling down” was somehow negative, something to be avoided, a kind of lifelessness.
As one for whom “settling down” has been a great way to do life, I was initially bothered by his answer – but not surprised. It reflects a certain kind of mindset that equates settling down with settling, and it’s the settling that frightens those who are drawn to zeal and the pursuit of excellence.
We hear the same kind of thing in business, particularly with a phrase like “good to great.” Good is the enemy of great. Good lulls us to sleep, allows us to settle. Why be good when you can be great? Americans love this kind of relentless quest for the next level. We admire it because it is in fact admirable. No one consciously aspires to “settle.”
But when we try to describe a life that rests in the shepherding love of God, we end up fumbling around for a positive description of what that life looks like. When we say “I shall not want,” what does that mean? Words like “satisfied” or “contentment” don’t stir our ambitions.
Various bible translations and paraphrases have attempted to bring out the meaning of the phrase: Eugene Peterson’s The Message says “Yahweh, my shepherd! I don’t need a thing.” The Jerusalem Bible says “I lack nothing.” The Living Bible says “I have everything I need.”
Translations help with the meaning of the phrase – but the question remains: What does a satisfied life look like and why should we regard such a life as a good life, and even a great life? Can we be satisfied without settling?
For the rest of this week we’ll look at three Old Testament texts, one from the life of David and two from the prophets, to explore some answers to that question. What we’ll discover is that a life that sis satisfied with God’s shepherding love is (a) firmly grounded (b) rightly ordered and (c) relentlessly hopeful. Such a life can hardly be described as “settled for.”
As for this day, don’t hesitate for one moment to pursue satisfaction. You’re not settling. You won’t miss a thing. The Psalmist prayed “satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days” (Psalm 90:14). To be satisfied with God means to live with joy and gladness, not regret and sadness.
Maybe you’re reading this in the morning. Let Psalm 90:14 be your prayer today. Ask God to satisfy you with his love. Go into this day knowing that God’s unfailing love is sufficient for all you will face, for every demand that will claim your time and energy. Don’t move from your chair dreading what awaits you. Don’t lug around the baggage from yesterday. Be satisfied in this moment with God’s shepherding love – and enter the day gladly.
Satisfied isn’t settling.
Satisfy us in the morning, O God, with your unfailing love. Give us what we need right now to live every moment of his day with joy and gladness. We will not live in want, constantly looking over our shoulders for what we’ve missed. Grant the grace of contentment that shows itself in joy – just the way Jesus lived. We ask this in his name. Amen.