When All Seems Not Right with the World

Dear Dr. Tom: As I grow older—senior citizen, yes, but never an old guy—I can’t seem to find peace the way I did as a young man. Back then, the Lord was my constant companion. I believed with my heart and soul. Now, the “still, small voice” has stopped transmitting in the God-channel. Unity friends say, “Go within. You are divine!” But I don’t feel godlike. Where do I go from here? I miss my sense of rightness with the world and connection to my Creator.—Disconnected at Connecticut

DEAR D@C: Connection with God isn’t a feeling, it’s a choice. A link of faith. If you’re like most people, you will seldom feel the euphoric bliss when swept up into the divine presence. Eastern mystics work long and hard for a glimpse of nirvana. Even Jesus came down from the mountain: He chose to dwell among people who had the same divine human nature as he did but had not realized it yet. Perhaps his mission was to show the way to self-realization. So be gentle with yourself. Listen to the divine voice of the wind. Find God’s message written in light by the stars above you. Let go, trust life. All is well, despite appearances to the contrary.

The 23rd Psalm

Dear Dr. Tom: The 23rd Psalm has always been an enigma to me. It paints a lovely picture of God as the good shepherd, guarding the flocks. He leads the sheep to green pastures and guides them to fresh water, where they are nourished in safety. Then the psalmist ruins the peaceful image by talking about traveling through the valley of death, prevailing against evil, and carrying weapons to ward off enemies. Is this a pastoral image or a psalm of war?—Unsettled Psalm Reader, Fargo, North Dakota

DEAR READER: You’re the first student of scripture I’ve encountered who picked up on the dualistic nature of the best-known psalm in the Bible. Don’t read too many ethical dilemmas into the imagery of pastoral life. To this day, people who raise sheep still need to provide the same food, hydration, and protection for their mostly helpless charges.

Good shepherds (great name!) are good precisely because they have prepared for anything that might threaten the flock under their care. Sheep need green grass, clean drinking water, and a shepherd to chase away predators. This is especially true during lambing season.

“Enemies” might mean bands of rustlers or single thieves bent on sheep-stealing. Of course, the psalm was also seen as a metaphor for God’s protection of the Hebrew people from hostile nations, large and small, who surrounded Israel. We have other options today—diplomacy, peaceful alliances, and defense forces whose task is to prevent wars, not start them. Of course, not all nations or organizations have signed aboard the peace ship—and even those who attempt to talk, rather than fight, sometimes find themselves doing both. But that’s another psalm.

Meanwhile, the ancient psalmist affirmed, despite the difficult world in which Israel lived, a vision of the future in which we will “dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

This was my historical-ethical analysis of the psalm. If you are interested in speculative symbolism, check out Unity cofounder Charles Fillmore’s Metaphysical Bible Dictionary (Unity Books, 1931).

One Sentence

Dear Dr. Tom: I have heard that the basic questions all religions try to answer are, “How should we live, what’s the nature of God, and what happens after we die?” Can you answer all three in one sentence, please?—Ultimate Q&A, Thirsk, U.K.

DEAR ULTIMATE: In one sentence? Hmm … Let’s see. Since you’re from James Herriot country, you probably know the answer already. In those marvelous books written by a country veterinarian in the World War II era, sometimes disasters or incurable illness arose among the livestock, problems even Herriot could not fix. The pragmatic, faith-filled Yorkshire Dales folk shrugged and told the young vet, “Aye, well, these things happen.” One sentence. Will that do?

This article appeared in Unity Magazine®.

About the Author

Rev. Thomas W. Shepherd, D.Min., former professor of theology and church history at Unity Institute® and Seminary, is the author of many Unity books. Send questions to [email protected].


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