“They were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36)
When Jesus looked out at the crowd, he saw people as they often are: scared, lost, and searching for guidance. I was really struck that not much has changed and was reminded of not only my own search for direction, but just how much it seems everyone around me still feels “troubled and abandoned”. Furthermore, I started thinking of all the people and things that try to fill that gap, from the sinister to the well-meaning, but incomplete.
Throughout history there have been people, movements, and organizations that took advantage of our natural need for leadership. When our hearts are uncertain, we gravitate towards whatever or whoever gives us purpose and control. This is how scammers take advantage of vulnerable people and charismatic leaders lead individuals, groups, and even nations into actions that people would have never done otherwise.
This passage has made me really take a look into my own life to see what I have been allowing to lead me. Sure, maybe I can’t point to a person or a philosophy that has caused me to act as a “sheeple” in the same way, but there are so many beliefs and coping mechanisms that have moved into my heart to help me deal with my longing for a shepherd. So much of growing in our faith is seeing what sneaky thought patterns have made their way into our everyday moments and relearning healthier ways to look at life.
God gave us a gift when he gave us intellect and free will, but he also gave us a heart that longs for its creator. I’ve been amazed at just how much peace has come from rejecting the other shepherds that have tried to grab my attention, and from not trying to make it through life on my own, realizing that God wants to protect us and lead us away from the things that make us feel troubled and abandoned. It’s not always easy to accept this guidance, especially when we are scared and have been hurt by other people or things that have tried to fill that gap before. However, I hope scripture passages like this can remind me that I belong to Someone and that Someone wants to make sure that I thrive.