Try as we might, human beings cannot flourish in isolation. From womb to tomb
we inevitably depend on others. Physically, emotionally and spiritually — ‘no
person is an island’. Religious or not, we can’t help but look to others to guide us
(with varying degrees of success). In reality, we are specifically designed as
sheep to look supremely to our divine Shepherd. He alone can supply all our
needs, accompany us through all our anxious wanderings and prepare a table for
our eternal home. But still, if we’re honest, many of us live with this nagging,
haunting fear: At the end of the day — am I all alone in this cruel world?

I’m on my own.
No one looks out for me or protects me.
I experience a continual sense of need. Nothing’s quite right.
I’m always restless. I’m easily frustrated and often disappointed.
It’s a jungle — I feel overwhelmed. It’s a desert — I’m thirsty.
My soul feels broken, twisted, and stuck. I can’t fix myself.
I stumble down some dark paths.
Still, I insist: I want to do what I want, when I want, how I want.
But life’s confusing. Why don’t things ever really work out?
I’m haunted by emptiness and futility — shadows of death.
I fear the big hurt and final loss.
Death is waiting for me at the end of every road,
but I’d rather not think about that.
I spend my life protecting myself. Bad things can happen.
I find no lasting comfort.
I’m alone … facing everything that could hurt me.
Are my friends really friends?
Other people use me for their own ends.
I can’t really trust anyone. No one has my back.
No one is really for me — except me.
And I’m so much all about ME, sometimes it’s sickening.
I belong to no one except myself.
My cup is never quite full enough. I’m left empty.
Disappointment follows me all the days of my life.
Will I just be obliterated into nothingness?
Will I be alone forever, homeless, free-falling into void?
Sartre said, “Hell is other people.”
I have to add, “Hell is also myself.”
It’s a living death,
and then I die.
Antipsalm 23, David Powlinson

1 The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 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.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 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.
Psalm 23

Psalm 23:1 summarises the heart of the Christian’s life. Whatever else may be
true, however scary the storm or deep the valley — this One, this ‘LORD’, has
covenanted to be ‘my Shepherd’. The deeper our grasp of who he is (LORD) the
stronger our confidence in what he promises to be and for whom (my Shepherd).
The LORD of the burning bush — inexhaustibly and eternally alive in the
undiminishing plentitude of his own perfection — has committed himself to your
personal care if you belong to Jesus. He who needs nothing can give everything
and still lose nothing. So because He is my shepherd, truly I can say (with David
and all the saints) “I lack nothing”. If I need it, my Shepherd can & will provide it.

  1. How does this Psalm offer a different perspective to the ‘Antipsalm 23’?
  2. What difference does it make to know who ‘the LORD’ is? In reality, how
    ‘big’ is our view of him in daily life?
  3. What comfort is it to know that this one promises to be a Shepherd?
  4. How practically might our lives look different if we were fully persuaded
    that this LORD is my Shepherd? Why can David (or we) truly say “I lack
  5. How might this affect the way we encourage one another?

Leader’s notes (PDF)

More about the author :

Santhosh Thomas

Santhosh is one of our pastors, with special responsibility for overseeing our small groups and various teaching and discipleship programmes. Born and raised in London, he has previously worked in churches in Oxford and Central London. He’s married to Jess and along with their three young children they enjoy sport, swings and meeting new people!

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