He Restores My Soul // Week 3
- Read Psalm 23. We will be looking at verses 5-6 today. “The marks of Satan’s presence are anxiety, guilt, and fear—all based on the lie that God either will not or cannot do anything about our condition; that our sin, our suffering, our inadequacy, our destiny—all are beyond His control or beyond His care. Satan’s subtle craft is to make us suspicious of God: ‘He is holding out on you,’ he whispers in our ears. That’s the devil’s fundamental deception. His one purpose is to draw us away from God’s love. He does so not because he hates us, but because he hates God and will do anything to break His heart, and nothing breaks God’s heart more than being separated from those He loves.” (The Song of a Passionate Heart Psalm 23) How much of a role do you think the devil’s lies and schemes play in driving a person to the edge of despair until they believe suicide is the only way out? Have you experienced this or witnessed this in someone else’s life?
- “Doubts come and go, but we need not be dismayed by them. Doubt is not at first a sign that our faith has failed but that it’s being assailed. When doubts come we should counter by reminding ourselves of their source and that what the devil says about God is not true—Satan is a liar. Then we can renew our minds and strengthen our hearts with the truth that God is the God ‘who does not lie’ (Titus 1:2). He is Eternal; Good and He is working for our good.” (The Song of a Passionate Heart Psalm 23). Verse 5 says that God prepares a table in the presence of my enemies. How does God provide protection, like that of a Near Eastern host, who would protect his guests at all costs even when they dined in the midst of enemies that lied and schemed and attacked? Is it possible to enjoy a feast prepared by God even when the enemy is present? How have you experienced this?
- Have you ever lost someone to suicide? “The grief can be intense: Shock, Anger, Guilt, Despair, Confusion, Feelings of rejection. You might continue to experience intense reactions during the weeks and months after your loved one’s suicide — including nightmares, flashbacks, difficulty concentrating, social withdrawal and loss of interest in usual activities — especially if you witnessed or discovered the suicide.” (https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/end-of-life/in-depth/suicide/art-20044900) Share your experience and what tools you found helped you the most.
- The battle is in the mind. Romans 12:2 tells us to renew our minds; to gain God’s perspective. Carolyn Leaf is a Neuroscientist who speaks a lot about how you can change your brain. “It is perfectly human to feel depression or anxiety in response to something like COVID[-19. But what you can do is learn to manage your emotional reactions so that you can actually think clearly. I’m talking about in the moment-by-moment, how do I live with myself when I’ve got this grief or this depression or this anxiety or this worry about these circumstances. And it’s a process of embracing it, as opposed to running from it, giving yourself permission to feel. It’s okay to feel depression because of this or okay to feel anxiety because of this. And then trying to, going through the process of processing this and reconceptualizing it. Seeing it in a different way in order to bring clarity to your mind and your brain. Seeing those emotions as helpful messages, and then processing [them] in order to see [them] in a different way so you can bring clarity of thought, to find out what is the different way that I should be looking at the situation. (https://chriskresser.com/rewiring-the-brain-through-neuroplasticity-with-dr-caroline-leaf/) Do you monitor your thoughts or do you let them run wild? Do you ask God to help you see from His perspective through His Word, Holy Spirit, Christian friends or counsellors? Has it made a difference? Share your experiences.
- Read verse 6 again. This life is short compared to eternity. What does it mean to you to have an eternal perspective and how does that help you cope during the hard times?
- What was most meaningful for you that was shared this week in the interviews Pastor Bob had on Sunday?
He Restores My Soul // Week 2
- Read Psalm 23 out loud, paying close attention to Verse 4. “The phrase shadow of death is one word in Hebrew, meaning ‘deep darkness,’ It’s a dreary word, used elsewhere in the Bible to describe the impenetrable darkness before creation (Amos 5:8), the thick darkness of a mine shaft (Job 28:3), and the black hole that is the abode of the dead (Job 10:21; 38:17). It’s a word associated with anxiety and dread.” (Psalm 23: The Song of a Passionate Heart.) Share a time in your life when you walked through the shadow of death on your life journey.
- Psalm 142:4 (TPT) describes feelings of deep loneliness and isolation. “I look to my left and right to see if there is anyone who will help, but there’s no one who takes notice of me. I have no hope of escape, and no one cares whether I live or die.” Psalm 22:1-2 (NLT) describes the depths of those feelings when even God seems far away, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why are you so far away when I groan for help? Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer. Every night I lift my voice, but I find no relief.” Even Jesus felt this kind of despair as He hung on the cross. Have you experienced it? Share.
- Notice in verse 4 that David begins talking directly to God where earlier he was talking about God. Even Job as he was nearing the end of his suffering, declared to God, “My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you.” (Job 42:5) Why do you think suffering can deepen intimacy with God? Have you experienced this?
- The shepherd’s rod is his weapon of power, authority and defense. Moses’ rod was the tool God worked miracles through to convince the Pharoah of His power so the rod speaks of the power of God’s spoken Word and we find comfort in reading His written word in the scriptures. “The staff is essentially a symbol of the concern, the compassion that a shepherd has for his charges. The word ‘staff’ speaks of all that is longsuffering and kind. The staff of God is symbolic of the Spirit of God. In Christ’s dealings with us as individuals there is the essence of the sweetness, the comfort and consolation, the gentle correction brought about by the work of His gracious Spirit.” (A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23). How has God’s rod and staff brought you comfort when you have been depressed?
- “As Christians we will sooner or later discover that it is in the valleys of our lives that we find refreshment from God Himself. It is not until we have walked with Him through some very deep troubles that we discover He can lead us to find our refreshment in Him right there in the midst of our difficulty. We are thrilled beyond words when there comes restoration to our souls and spirits from His own gracious Spirit.” (A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23). Share a time in your life when you experienced Your Shepherd in this way as you walked through a dark time.
- What new understandings about depression did you gain through the discussion Pastor Bob had with his guests? Did you gain any new tools to utilize when you are experiencing depression? What did you learn about how to best support others who are going through the valley of the shadow of death?
He Restores My Soul // Week 1
- Oxford Languages defines anxiety as, “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.” What kinds of things caused you the most anxiety in 2020 and why?
- In what ways can you relate to being described as a sheep? How can it be calming to recognize that you aren’t the Shepherd and so you can lay down in peace in His care?
- What are the qualities that make the Lord a Good Shepherd, especially from the perspective of a flock of skittish, fearful sheep? How did you experience your Good Shepherd’s abilities to get you to lie down during your most challenging moments of this past year?
- Pastor Bob said that the way we stay close to the Shepherd is through prayer. How has your prayer life been affected by the anxiety of this past year? Have you implemented any new strategies to enhance your commitment to prayer and to strengthen your faith? How did you handle the challenging times when you found it difficult to pray?
- Have you ever experienced anxiety to the degree that it was “intense, excessive, and persistent worry and fear that caused fast heart rate, rapid breathing, sweating, and feeling tired”? In that season, when anxiety had become a disorder, how did the Good Shepherd guide you to the right path that would lead you beside quiet waters and refresh your soul? (Professional help, breathing techniques, medications?)
- No one would pray for a year like 2020 that caused anxiety for many people. However, God is a redeemer who brings good out of even the hardest times. What blessings have you experienced through the challenges of the past year, as you have learned to follow your Shepherd more closely?