The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. [Psalm 23:2-3 (NLT)]

For I have given rest to the weary and joy to the sorrowing. [Jeremiah 31:25 (NLT)]

A weary body and a sorrowful soul described me Saturday morning. Twice in the last twelve days one family member came perilously close to death while another loved one entered Hospice care. Most of last week was spent in airports, on planes, or at a hospital bedside. Having finally gotten home well past midnight, I crawled out of bed that morning physically and mentally exhausted.

Hoping to clear the cobwebs from my mind, I took a walk in a nearby park. The psalms often speak of water refreshing us but, for me, it is a walk outside. As the butterflies danced in the sunshine, my spirits began to lift. Nevertheless, my mind was churning and I was still trying to solve and control situations that I can neither solve nor control.

Hoping to spot a few canna lilies from the boardwalk, I kept looking over the right railing. An inner voice clearly told me that I’d see something special on the other side. “Forget it,” said another voice, “God isn’t a park ranger guiding you on a nature walk. You’re going to feel like an idiot when nothing’s there!” Indeed, I had to agree. God certainly has better things to do than point out flowers in a park. Something, however, kept nudging me so, feeling rather foolish, I crossed to the opposite railing and looked down. There, right below me, invisible from the other side of the boardwalk, was a family of playful raccoons.

For many, that sighting might not mean much but, for me, those raccoons were a gift from God! They renewed me the way green meadows and peaceful streams refreshed David. They made me realize how my life overflows with blessings. Guiding me to those endearing critters was God’s way of saying “Listen to me and trust me. Trust me to guide your loved ones through this valley. Trust me for all the comfort, guidance and provision you and your family need.”

I don’t normally hear a voice that so clearly directs my actions; Saturday I did. Some might dismiss it as intuition but I think that small voice was the Holy Spirit bringing me a message of comfort and hope. The enemy, however, tried to steal that from me with doubt. Fortunately, I took a few steps in faith and God showed me that I can trust Him and take Him at His word.

The situation of those I love has not changed but, after sighting those masked bandits in the woods, my perspective has. If God can guide me to the other side of the boardwalk for an “Aha!” moment, I will trust that, in His own time and way, He will gently guide my loved ones through their dark valleys to the other side.

Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever. [Psalm 23:4-6 (NLT)]

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