It is no secret that I am a huge fan of Dallas Willard. This past month, as part of an on-Iine book club I belong to, I have been re-reading Dallas’ posthumous book, Life Without Lack: Living in the Fullness of Psalm 23. This is my third trip through the pages of this book which was published in 2018. I liked this book from the start, but this time through, it is sounding so different and resonating with the current realities of life to a greater degree – a Holy Spirit led, transformative, and life-altering degree. There is so, so much I could share with you that has come from this focused gaze into the Shepherd’s Psalm, but today, just one sentence is crying out to be shared. It is this:
“Jesus’ basic idea about this world – with all its evil, pushed to the limit in what he went through going toward and nailed upon the cross – is that this world is a perfectly good and safe place for anyone to be, no matter the circumstances, if they have placed their lives in the hands of Jesus and his Father.” (LWL, p. 86.)
Did you catch that? The world is a perfectly good and safe place for anyone to be, no matter the circumstances. What? Good and safe, you say? Are you crazy? Surely now – during a pandemic – we are not safe. There is nothing good about being stuck at home, losing my job, watching the economy free fall, seeing the death count go up and up and up. Dallas wrote this before anyone had heard of COVID 19 – surely he would not say this if he were alive today. Or would he?
This sentence comes in the midst of a chapter on Satan and the presence of evil in the world – where Dallas lays out the role of Satan as ruler of the air, responsible for perpetrating and crafting a world opposed to goodness and safety. This quote comes at the end of a section where Dallas states that Jesus’ struggle in the Garden of Gethsemane was his final struggle with Satan, who was trying his best to break Jesus down and prevent the redemptive act of the crucifixion. Jesus prevailed but sweated great drops of blood in withstanding Satan. Satan was able to influence humans to torture and execute Jesus, hoping to provoke him into “saving himself,” but Jesus never waivered with his winning strategy to defeat Satan through his death and imminent resurrection. To live through and beyond the cross into resurrection life means God is now present among us and available.
Hear the words of Psalm 23: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will not be afraid, for you are with me.” Jesus invites us in Matthew 7 to look at the birds – they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. And to look at the flowers – they do not labor or spin, but they are clothed more brilliantly than Solomon in all his glory! Can any of us by worrying add a single hour to our lives? (see Matt. 7:25-34).
The world is perfectly good because God is in it. We are perfectly safe because we have a Savior who endured great misery and pain, even death, so he could be constantly present and at our sides no matter what our circumstances. There is no greater hope. There is no more complete comfort. There is no more perfect a peace than the presence of Jesus, the Good Shepherd.
I pray that we will find opportunities to listen to the birds and gaze at the flowers that are beginning to bloom. Let them remind us that the world is good and the world is safe in the hands of Jesus. And make time to meditate on the words of David in the Shepherd’s Psalm. May they give you hope, comfort, and peace today and everyday!
Psalm 23 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. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.