Song Reflection: “I Shall Not Want” by Audrey Assad

By Bryn Rademaker

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want…” ~ Psalm 23:1

When you think of a shepherd, what’s the first image that pops into your head?

Maybe you’re thinking of this big, strong, buff dude who wears sheepskin and carries a tall staff in his field of fluffy white sheep… or how about a bearded pickle who hops up and down hills with his staff in search for his lost sheep (all you Veggie Tales fans know what I’m talking about)…

Whatever image comes to mind, this shepherd you’re thinking of most likely has a staff in his hand and is in some way watching over a group of sheep, right?  This shepherd knows his way; he leads his flock with protection and guides them to the calm streams that he knows will bring them no harm. Even if one goes astray and loses its way, this shepherd will leave the entire flock to go find the one that is lost.

It’s easy to imagine how our good Lord is our true Shepherd, constantly at our side and guiding us along the pathways of life.  It is when we stray from that faith that God is our ONE true Shepherd that we fall into the trap of what is called “pride”—thinking we are God when we are far from that.  

Welcome to the 21st century, my friends, where the “norm” and our culture says that it is up to us to accomplish everything in our own ways with the pressure of society on our shoulders.

“It’s a pitfall that we all face… it’s one thing to build up our character for the love of the right thing / the love of God, but it’s another thing to be concerned with other people’s opinions all the time,” the famous Christian artist Audrey Assad comments about her intent behind writing this beautiful song in an interview.  “I felt like it was a good idea to really dig into the prayer and offer a refrain that would give some hope to the situation.”

Audrey decided it was time to embrace the opportunity to shed light on the virtue of humility.  In his book Time for God, Father Jacques Philippe says, “Humility lies in peaceful acceptance of one’s own radical poverty, which leads people to place all their trust in God.  Humble people, for whom God is everything, are happy to accept the fact that they are nothing. They don’t carry on about their wretchedness: they consider it a stroke of luck, since it gives God the chance to show how merciful he is,” (Philippe 20-21). This virtue of humility expands the heart and rejects discouragement because it allows for full trust not in ourselves but in God alone, our one true Shepherd.  

This is where the lyrics “I shall not want,” and “Deliver me O God,” come from: words of pure humility, words of unshakable poverty of spirit.  Take a look at Audrey’s lyrics for our song of the month, “I Shall Not Want”:

“From the love of my own comfort
From the fear of having nothing
From a life of worldly passions
Deliver me O God

From the need to be understood
And from a need to be accepted
From the fear of being lonely
Deliver me O God
Deliver me O God

And I shall not want, no, I shall not want
When I taste Your goodness, I shall not want
When I taste Your goodness, I shall not want

From the fear of serving others
Oh, and from the fear of death or trial
And from the fear of humility
Deliver me O God
Yes, deliver me O God

And I shall not want, no, I shall not want
When I taste Your goodness I shall not want

No, I shall not want, no, I shall not want
When I taste Your goodness I shall not want

When I taste Your goodness I shall not want
I shall not want
I shall not want.”

Look familiar?  These lyrics were inspired specifically by a beautiful (and incredibly challenging) prayer called “The Litany of Humility,” written by a man named Cardinal Rafael Merry del Val.  I was first introduced to this prayer by a FOCUS missionary on our mission trip to Rwanda in 2017; ever since being handed this prayer, I’ve challenged myself to pray this litany almost every single morning, even as painful as it is to ask the Lord every single day to help me to deny myself and to deliver me from any ways I think I am God.  

Attached as a link below is a simple copy of “The Litany of Humility”—I encourage you to bring this prayer into your daily (or even weekly) prayer.  Not only will it allow you to take a step back and to recognize the places in your own heart that you may be preventing God from taking control of, but it will also definitely give you a new sense of seeing the infinite ways that he IS your God.

I promise you, it’ll be hard—pride is the worst of all the sins.  But I can guarantee you won’t regret it. As St. John of the Cross says, “To be taken with love for a soul, God does not look on its greatness, but on the greatness of its humility.”  The more you allow the Lord to shower you with the grace and virtues of humility, the more room you give him to lead you towards all other virtues for eternal sanctity. Let the good Shepherd BE your guide!

Have fun, pals!

“The Litany of Humility”:

~Audrey Assad is an incredible Christian artist, with over 5 albums that include beautiful songs of love, virtue, patience, and encouragement in our faith.  Other famous songs of hers include renditions of old church hymns such as “Be Thou My Vision” and “Holy, Holy, Holy.” Top-charted originals of hers include “Even Unto Death,” “Restless,” and “Drawn to You.”

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