British shepherds often take sheep and rams, one by one, and throw them into a dipping trough, a huge vat filled with an antiseptic liquid. The shepherd must completely submerge each animal, holding its ears, eyes, and nose under the surface. It is of course horribly frightening for the sheep. And if any of the sheep try to climb out of the trough too soon, the sheepdogs bark and snap and force them back in.
But as terrifying an experience as it is for the sheep, without the periodic treatment, they would become the victims of parasites and disease. It is for their good, even if it is beyond their understanding.
The wisdom of the shepherd is sometimes more important than the comfort of the sheep.
Do you ever feel like that? Do you ever feel like something is going on in your life and you don’t understand why God allows such a thing to happen?
12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 1 Peter 4:12-13
In 1st Peter we find the apostle addressing the issue of suffering among followers of Jesus. He will tell his “alien nation” not to be surprised when suffering comes upon them. This is not something that 20th century Christianity likes to talk about. We want to think of the gentle shepherd who leads us beside still waters and plays softly on a harp while we graze. However, sometimes the shepherd must put us through things which are terrifying and painful. Instead of questioning the goodness of the shepherd, perhaps we should trust His wisdom to lead us through and that whatever comes is for our benefit.
Like the psalmist, we must trust that some things are beyond our understanding. “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.” Psalm 139:6
We too have a Good Shepherd who is committed to His sheep, though He often does things that frighten us and that we cannot, at the moment, understand. Trust is an integral part of faith. If you are suffering this week, I encourage you to trust in the wisdom and the goodness of the Shepherd.