Excerpted from “Keeping Your Soul Sane in Seasons of Change” by Clay Scroggins
❝This is a season where everybody's kind of wondering Am I in in the right place? Am I doing the right thing? Am I in the right job? Living in the right spot? Hanging out with the right people? All that stuff.
For the last 10 years, I've been serving as a campus pastor here, kind of doing the same job but at three different churches. And about six months ago, I would say, that feeling—that restlessness that so many people are experiencing right now—moved me to start having a conversation with my bosses.
Lane Jones is my direct boss, so I met with him and Andy a couple of times to just invite their advice, tell them a little about how I feel, and ask them what they want me to do with it. I was wondering what they thought about what I was wrestling with, just trying to decipher that feeling inside of me that was going, Hey, I feel like I'm looking for more leadership, different leadership, looking for some other ways to express what I feel like I've been put on earth to do.
And after much prayer and deliberation and conversation, both with my wife and also with Andy and Lane, I told them I was going to resign. And as the words were coming out of my mouth, I was like, Those aren't words you can just get back, you know...
Fortunately, they were wonderful about it. They were gracious about it. They were so honoring of me in the whole process. But it was a scary conversation for me. For one, because months earlier I was telling my dad a little bit about what I was feeling, and he said—this is such fatherly advice—"Clay, I'd say this one thing. Don't ever quit a job before you have a job.” And I'm like, “Got it, Dad.” Then I went and did that exact thing. But I was sure that the time had come, that the season to do something different had arrived.
Still, I’m grieving. I'm sad. I know that feeling where you are doing what you know to do up until this point, but you can't see what's on the other side. You've been through stuff like this. Everybody's been in a season of life where they knew what they needed to do up until this point, and they couldn't see what was coming up past that. Maybe that's where you are today. Maybe some of you are in a season where you've been feeling that restlessness that maybe God is getting you ready for something else. Or maybe God is having you let go of something—maybe where you live or what you do or what you see for your future.
And as I thought about that today, I just thought it is a great opportunity for me to share what God has been doing in my life. I titled the message “Keeping Your Soul Sane in Seasons of Change.” The word sane is typically reserved for the mental side of life—our thoughts, our mind. But I feel like in this season, my emotions and my thoughts and my feelings have been all mixed up together. It's hard to differentiate one from the other. And so I really do hope or wish for sanity in my soul. That I would be of right mind, that my soul would be of right soul.
So where God has continued to bring me back to in this season is one of the most famous passages of Scripture that we have, Psalm 23. Psalms are such a great place to go when you're feeling a lot, because David was all up in his emotions. He tells God exactly how he feels. It's so helpful. So I got to Psalm 23 and I just couldn't get past it. I kept coming back to it. I've heard it, I've read it, I've had most of it memorized, but I had never really studied it. And God has used it so tremendously in my own life recently. So I just want to spend the next few minutes doing kind of a version of a Bible study. I just want us to walk through this Psalm together. And my hope is that God might use this in your life.❞
Psalm 23:1 -
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
❝One of the things that I've noticed about change is that change often makes you question yourself, question your own identity. Change will make you wonder Who am I? So one of the things that we have to do when we're in a season of change is that we have to remind ourselves who we are. And the best way to remind ourselves who we are is to make sure we know everything we can know about who God is. Because our identity is best ascribed to us by the one who created us.
And so it makes sense that David would begin the Psalm this way. The Lord is my shepherd. The Lord is like a shepherd. Real quick, show of hands. How many of you have ever shepherded sheep in your past? Right, no one. This is what's always challenging about these metaphors. It doesn't work for us. We're like, David, what else do you have? We're not real familiar with shepherds in this part of the world in this day and age.
But what do we know about shepherds? We know that shepherds are responsible for the sheep; shepherds care for the sheep; shepherds guide the sheep; they know better than the sheep.
And what do we know about sheep? What’s the number one adjective we use to describe sheep? Someone said it. Sheep are dumb. Some of you are like, Well, that's offensive. Okay, it might be. You might be a real above average sheep. You might be one of the smarter ones. You made the honor roll, you got the bumper sticker, you’re gifted, you're better than the normal sheep. Okay, fine. You can have that. But David says that in general we're like sheep and sheep do dumb things.
Have you ever known a human to do something dumb? Yeah, it's a lot easier to spot in others than it is to spot in ourselves. But we all know how dumb people can be, and I think David is just trying to remind us, Hey, you're more like a sheep than you might think. You can't see the future. You don't know exactly where you're headed. You're impulsive. You're quick to get distracted by something. He doesn't say you're dumb. But you need someone to guide you, you need someone to lead you, you need someone who knows the way, you need someone who has everything that you're gonna need for the journey. And that's the shepherd. So he says, The Lord is my shepherd. And therefore, I lack nothing.
When I look out on my own life, especially in this last season, I could name a number of things that I lack. It's really easy for us to see the things that we lack—maybe a different job, or a new job, or more of a paycheck, or a different paycheck, or more peace, or more freedom, or more autonomy, or a different set of relationships, or whatever it may be. But what's worse is when we look internally and realize that there's stuff that we lack. This season has made me realize that I need more courage. I need more confidence. I need more clarity. And I've searched and searched and searched internally and I’ve come up wanting. So the idea that I lack nothing has been a little disturbing.
What it has made me realize though, is that even though the sheep might feel like they lack something, as long as the shepherd has it, they don't actually lack it. You know what I'm saying? The sheep don't exactly know where they're going, but as long as the shepherd does, it's gonna be okay. The sheep don't have everything they need to face what they're gonna face that day, but as long as the shepherd is there with them, they’ll be okay.
If that's you today—if you look internally and realize that there are things that you lack—I want to introduce you to a shepherd who has everything you need. And if you don't have it right now, maybe it's because he doesn't think you need it right now. And if you feel like you need it right now and you don't have it right now, maybe it's because he's going to give it to you at just the right time. But the role of the sheep is just to fixate on the shepherd, to remind themselves, Don't freak out just because I don't have everything I need. I have the shepherd.❞
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
❝What's a valley? A valley is that area that's in between mountains. You've got this beautiful mountain over here, this beautiful mountain over here, and you're down in the valley. Nobody likes to be in the valley. But we all know this: there will be valleys in life. The problem is that when we're in the valley, we start questioning everything. Where is God? What is he up to? Has he forgotten about me? Has he decided he's not going to intervene and help? I feel like I've been in this valley for way too long and I'm tired of it.
And here’s what I face so often: I get sick of being in the valley. So I get mixed up and end up walking through the green pasture and laying down in the valley. But that's not the way we're supposed to do it. We're supposed to lay down in the green pasture and walk through the valley. Sometimes walking will feel slow, but walking is movement. And if you're in a valley, I just want to encourage you with a few things.
Number one: you have to walk through the valley. There is no other way. And if you can't see what's on the other side, does it mean that God is distant or absent or not there? No. You just keep walking. You keep moving, you put one foot in front of the other, you do the next right thing.
And then two: you have to remind yourself over and over again that God is with you in the valley. I will fear no evil, for you are with me. Too often we get fixated on the huge shadow of all the things we fear, all the what ifs and what happens if it doesn't, and all the things in the future that may go wrong. And David's reminding us, Hey, don't fixate on the shadow. Fix your eyes on the shepherd. When you're in the valley, it's gonna be real tempting to want to lock in on the shadow. But you just decide, I'm gonna keep walking and I'm gonna lock in on the shepherd. As long as he's with me, there is no evil that can touch me. Yeah, maybe it gets me in this life, but it won't get me in the next life, because he's with me.
And David says that the way we experience that is through God’s rod and his staff. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Shepherds would have to beat off things that were coming to attack the sheep and the rod is what they would use. So the rod represents God's power, that God is all-powerful, that there's nothing he can't do. The staff represents his graciousness to get us back on course when we take the bait, when we take the wrong step, when we miss his cue, when we make a mistake, when we do it for the wrong reasons, when we mess it up, when we blow it. His rod and his staff… his power and his grace… they comfort us to be able to try, to be able to risk.❞
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
❝Then, David says, God does this thing and it seems almost like he’s talking trash. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. David had actual enemies. There was all kinds of stuff going on in his life. But in our case, the enemy could be anything. It could be the shame of your past; it could be the fear of the future; it could be the loneliness that you experience; it could be that feeling of inadequacy that I don't measure up, I don't have what it takes. Whatever your enemy is, just know that God is so powerful and you are so his, that he prepares this beautiful banquet table, this amazing five-star meal… and he does it in the presence of the shame, in the presence of the loneliness, in the presence of the inadequacy to just let the enemy know This one's with me. You might be taunting, you might be tempting, but I'm just letting the enemy know that I got you.
I had a friend tell me the story a little while ago that's been really helpful for me. Maybe it will help you as well. There was a guy who went to go work with Mother Teresa for a couple of months. And toward the end of his stint, he got an opportunity to have a personal conversation with Mother Teresa where she asked, “Is there anything I can pray for you about?” How cool is that, to get to ask Mother Teresa to pray for you? And so he said, “Well, there's some big decisions that I have coming and I could really use some clarity.” And Mother Theresa looks at him and she says, “Well, I'll be happy to pray for that for you. But I've found that God doesn't typically give me clarity. In fact, I've really never had clarity. But what God does is give me opportunities to trust, and I'm going pray that this will be an opportunity for you to trust even when you don't have clarity.”
If you're in a season where you need clarity… you need to know what's on the other side… I hope God will tell you. He hasn't done that for me. But what he has done is that he's given me a great opportunity to trust. He's given you that as well, the chance to trust him… to maybe even call on him as your shepherd.
… God, we pray that you would show us the path. But when you don't, I pray that we'll have the courage to trust. The ability to fix our eyes on you, no matter how big the shadow is. That we'd be able to trust the shepherd, even when we're in the valley. That we'd remember that you are with us. And that means everything. I pray that we would look to you with everything we have, even when it doesn't seem clear. We pray all this in Jesus’s name.❞