By Betty Dunn, Crosswalk.com
Your soul may need some restoration after the crises of the past couple of years. Maybe it is a particularly challenging time for you to keep going, keep believing, and keep living your faith. It is important to remember that God will restore our souls in those times.
Where Does the Bible Say God Restores My Soul?
The phrase “He restores my soul” appears in Psalm 23:3. In the emotional tone of the Psalmist, the Twenty-third Psalm expresses hope amid despair.
The great nineteenth-century preacher Henry Ward Beecher described Psalm 23’s blessings in one of his sermons. He said this psalm has “charmed more griefs to rest than all the philosophy of the world. . . It has sung courage to the army of the disappointed. It has poured balm and consolation into the heart of the sick, of captives in dungeons, of widows in their pinching griefs, of orphans in their loneliness.”
Who Wrote Psalm 23?
King David is credited with writing Psalm 23. King David wrote many Psalms during the dark times in his life. For example, the poet’s voice in Psalm 22:1 cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me?”
David’s soul was restored by God time and time again in the narratives of the Psalms. He trades dread and worries for joyful expectation when he writes, “He restores my soul.”
David had been a shepherd as a boy, and some called him The Shepherd King. He knew sheep well and spoke with authority on their animal nature. Jesus called himself a good shepherd who would give His life for the sheep (John 10:14). We are sometimes foolish, poor in spirit, but blessed by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:2). God as our Shepherd is a precious image to Christians of all times. Picture one of the paintings depicting Jesus carrying a lamb across His shoulders while he gently follows a herd of sheep. I picture myself at eighteen, a swimming instructor hoisting a shepherd’s crook above five-year-old children, ready to scoop one up as he or she swam across the pool for the first time. The children were not going to sink on my watch.
What Does It Mean that God Restores My Soul?
Charles Spurgeon pointed out that Psalm 23 contains the pronoun “my” – from the opening line to the Psalm’s conclusion, the Lord is my Shepherd. Beginning with “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want,” God claims us as His own, and we recognize Him as our God.
Psalm 23:1 says, “I shall not want,” which means the Shepherd provides for our every need. We lack for nothing. The Shepherd is watching over us every step of the way. All of us “sheep” need a shepherd’s care.
Verse 2 says, “He makes me lie down in green pastures.” My cousin Eugene Quigley grew up on a sheep farm in Nova Scotia. He recently told me many farmers on Cape Breton Island have quit raising sheep because they are hard to manage—they jump fences and run astray. In A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, Philip Keller describes sheeps’ foolish and skittish nature. Sheep only lie down if:
- they are not afraid
- there is no friction among them
- there are no flies or parasites to irritate them
- they are well fed
Rest comes when a shepherd has met the sheeps’ needs.
Verse 3 says, “He restores my soul.” God is the almighty power who restores us (repairs or returns us to our former condition). “He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” reminds us that God’s love purifies us. We are without flies or parasites that would sully our wool. “Righteousness” suggests a consistent, correct way to live, obeying God’s moral code. He guides us along life’s path, keeping us out of serious trouble. We, like sheep, need not go astray (Isaiah 53:6).
Verse 4 describes how God is with us in difficult and frightening times: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” The “valley of the shadow of death” sounds like a dark place, a point in our experience when we hit rock bottom and God lifts us to higher ground. Low times are not without discomfort: “your rod and your staff comfort me.” Even from a bad spell to a better life, change is unpleasant. God’s tools of prayer and reflection lead us along the way. “I will fear no evil” speaks for itself—fear is not necessary when God protects us.
In verse 5, there is a welcoming “table before me in the presence of my enemies.” Traveling the highways and byways of ancient times was dangerous. Psalm 23 paints a picture of hospitality amidst danger. We can also recall the parable of the lowly guests when Jesus invited street people and vagrants to dinner: “Come, for all things are now ready” (Luke 14:17). “My cup runneth over” reminds us God’s blessings are beyond our yearnings.
The following line of verse 5, “You anoint my head with oil,” is similar to the “sinful” woman pouring expensive perfume of Jesus’ feet (Luke 7:36-50), a loving act Jesus praised. God shows love and mercy to us in our walk with Him.
The closing lines of verse 5 and verse 6 speak of abundant grace: “my cup overflows,” and “goodness and love.” We are well cared for by the Good Shepherd. There is also a glorious permanence to the work of the Good Shepherd.
In verse 6, David writes, “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” In God, we have a forever home and place of refuge through life and death. Sheep may not be able to bank on this, but we can as God’s children.
Should I Pray for God to Restore My Soul?
Psalm 100:3 says, “We are his people and the sheep of his pasture.” Sheep do not know how to solve problems with the flock or provide for themselves. People likewise are dependent on God. We can pray for God’s guidance as we navigate through life.
Jesus wants to keep us in His fold, as explained in the parable of the ninety and nine sheep. One lost sheep drives the Shepherd to search high and low and bring back the missing sheep (Luke 15:3-7). God cares about a lost soul in the same way. Our soul is our spirit and innermost being. Since God is the one who made us, only He can restore us—repair or renovate us and return us to greater blessings. Only God knows what we truly need to restore our souls. He will lead us to green pastures, quiet waters, and paths of righteousness. Bless His name.
A Prayer for When We Need Our Souls Restored
Lord, thank you for providing for me and watching over me. Restore my soul in a big way. Create in me a clean heart, one better than ever before to serve You and the people of all of our pastures with love. Make me strong and able to build up your missions on earth. Let me know your voice when you call me and the flock together as one body of Christ.
In Your name, I pray, Amen.
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/CandyRetrieve
Betty Dunn hopes her articles in Crosswalk.com help you hold hands with God, a theme in her self-published memoir Medusa. A former high school English teacher and editor, she works on writing projects from her home in West Michigan, where she enjoys woods, water, pets, and family. Check out her blog at Betty by Elizabeth Dunning and her website, www.elizabethdunning-wix.com.