As ministry leaders, it can be easy for us to resonate with the role of being a shepherd to others but minimize the role of being sheep ourselves, can’t it? Whether you’re a pastor, campus minister, or Bible study leader, you become familiar with and skilled in feeding God’s truth to others. And yet, as someone who leads a ministry and has spent years working as a biblical counselor, I’m keenly aware of the challenge of drinking from the well of Scripture myself, not just pouring it out for others. There are days and weeks and seasons when we cling to the label of shepherd while struggling to taste and see God’s goodness for ourselves as sheep.
God cares about you. He cares for you as an (under) shepherd and as a sheep.
An Exhortation for Leaders
It’s fitting that we look at a short passage from the apostle Peter, as he speaks directly to church leaders.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6–7)
There’s much we could say about this passage, but we’ll focus on the last five words: because he cares for you. I imagine you’ve found these verses helpful when counseling others. “God cares deeply for you, so you can cast your anxieties on him.” It is a rich and moving line. These are words that good shepherds delight to proclaim to the sheep.
My question to you is this: How often do you remember that God cares for you? Do you ever say “because he cares for me”? My encouragement to you is to read this passage as a sheep— not looking for ideas for a sermon or a counseling application. Simply take God’s words to heart for yourself. Consider these two aspects of his care.
First, he takes care of you. One aspect of what it means to care for someone is to take care of them. You serve them, watch out for them, and love them—in many different, tangible ways.
“He cares for you” is a reminder that God’s love for you is tangible. Every time he provides you with a meal, a restful night of sleep, a walk in the fresh air, an insight from a book, or an honest conversation, he’s taking care of you. Restoring your soul one bite, one page, one blessing at a time. Look back at the last twenty-four hours: how is God taking care of you? I don’t simply mean “count your blessings” or even “be thankful for God’s good gifts,” though these are right and good. I mean slow down and actually consider the personalness, the knowing-you-ness, the exact-fittingness of the particular ways he has cared for your body and soul.
What is more, the list of God’s provisions even includes a calling that forces and allows you to spend significant time in Scripture and plants you deep in the center of a Christian community (with all its glories and trials). Have you looked around lately and simply taken this in? God is taking care of you.
Second, he feels care for you. Peter also invites us to consider God’s deep affection and tender enjoyment of us.
What does it look like to care about someone? Often it means your mind naturally drifts to thinking about them, perhaps looking forward to the next time you’ll see them. Whether it’s enjoying a shared hobby, eating a meal together, or just hearing how they are doing, you are eager to see them, to know what is besetting them, and to hear what is on their mind.
This sort of sentiment is difficult for most of us to imagine when we think of God. But that is exactly how God relates to you, sees you, and carries you in his heart and his thoughts. He cares for you. He delights in you. This passage is speaking about God’s personal affection for you. The living God doesn’t just love you; he likes you.
Do you feel the reality of God’s personal affection for you? I regularly talk with ministry leaders, and I rarely hear them speak of God’s affection for them. I know I struggle greatly to believe this consistently myself! But hear these words in the first person; speak them aloud: “He cares for me.” Even as I write this, I have to pause and let that sink in. The Good Shepherd, the One who knows the depths of my soul, cares for me. That is what it is to be a sheep in God’s fold.
Cast All Your Anxieties on Him
What does God’s personal affection lead to? It’s supposed to lead to casting all your anxieties on him and doing so without self-condemnation. But however frequently we reassure others of God’s love for them, we can be quick to berate ourselves for not casting our cares as well or quickly or permanently as we should. We are slow to trust that his care means we can come, cast our anxieties on him, even crumple into his arms because he knows us and stoops down to hear our busy, battered babblings about the things that weigh us down.
If God truly does care for me, if he has a tender affection toward me, then he is trustworthy with what is on my heart. I can tell him what I’m feeling, even when it’s unprocessed or ugly. I can tell him about my anxieties, my concerns for my own soul, and the places it is loveless, faithless, or hopeless. I can even pray about my temptations, my doubts, and my frustrations with his provision, knowing he will not pull back and change his smile to a scowl as I lay my discouragements in his lap.
Please do pray for the people you minister to. Pray for your sermon or Bible study preparation, for your friends and family. Pray for your leaders and the flourishing of the church. But please do not neglect to pray your own heart to God. Ministry is busy. The pressures can be overwhelming. Our own sins and weaknesses are ever before us. God’s invitation to you today is to be a sheep. Sheep aren’t known for being strong, self-reliant, or impressive. Sheep are needy, simple creatures that depend on a shepherd to lead them. Perhaps you’ve forgotten what that’s like. Come and pour out your heart to the Good Shepherd, the One who cares for you.