|Pixabay, Public Domain|
A “cast” sheep is one that has fallen over onto its back and can’t get back up onto its feet. Without intervention it will die.
The psalmist describes what a “cast” soul is like in Psalm 42:5, 6: “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?…My soul is downcast within me.”
Did you think that depression, despair, sadness, emptiness, hopelessness, loneliness, fear, and worthlessness were modern day phenomena? They aren’t.
Sleepless nights, lack of appetite, uncontrolled anger followed by guilt, a sense that God has walked away—if He was ever there at all, and the very real sense that life is over, are nothing new.
Watching my mother suffer from chronic depression for many years always reminds me of just how real being “cast” is.
Don Baker sums it up much better than I ever could. He writes:
“OUR LORD IS THE SOUL DOCTOR. He is the only one trained and experienced in the healing of the soul—the only one qualified to determine just what remedy is needed and to gently lift the “cast” soul back to life. The diseases of the soul are different from those of the body. The soul can be affected by guilt, restlessness, discouragement, depression, loneliness, emptiness, and absence of hope. These diseases respond to the healing touch of the Savior as He applies grace to our sin. When we are missing from the flock, our Shepherd goes after the truant until He finds us and then lovingly, gently, but firmly restores us to the rest. ‘HE RESTORES MY SOUL.’” (The Way of the Shepherd).
The psalmist knew what it was like to be “cast,” to be unable to get back onto one’s feet without help. Because of that, Psalm 42 was written. Listen to the words:
“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?'…Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you…By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me—a prayer to the God of my life” (Psalm 43:1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 8).
And in response to the cry of the cast sheep, the Great Shepherd responds: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
In Jesus there is a soul shepherd. There is no one else like Him. Oh for more earthly shepherds who would choose to emulate Him in today's "cast" society.