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The Lord watches over you—the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. Psalm 121:5-6

I overheard a co-worker one day stating her frustration with a coach for her girls volleyball team. Seems mom and daughter were not at all pleased with the amount of playing time that the coach was giving her. The phrase that caught my attention was “So, I went all momma bear on her…”

Anyone who lives in bear country as we do, knows full well what that means. The one thing you don’t want to do is to get between momma and her cubs. Unfortunately, some who have inadvertently done so have lost their lives. Momma bears don’t take kindly to seeing their cubs in danger.

A friend of ours was jogging on a forest trail one day and came around a corner and noticed a large bear on the left side of the trail. Off to the right were a couple cubs. Momma bear let our a roar and stood on her hind feet. Our friend made an about face and made record time home! Don’t get between momma bear and her littles!

That analogy, which may be a little weak in some ways, reminds me of Psalm 121:5-6. This song was sung by pilgrims on their way through the Palestinian wilderness on their way to worship in the Temple in Jerusalem. It’s message gives us hope and encouragement today as it did then and reminds us of the great privilege we have of prayer as we travel our own wilderness.

He watches over us

Like a momma bear our Father watches over us. When we go to him in prayer we can be assured that he has already scouted out the area we are in. He’s aware of dangers we are facing. More aware, in fact, than we are. Just as a bear cub may wander into a situation that would cause harm, we often stray into areas that may cause danger. When you pray, you don’t need to pray to a saint, or to Mary as some do. You can go directly to the Father through Jesus because of his work on the cross.

The Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day

When you go to the Lord in prayer you can also feel the comfort and refreshment of his presence. I’m not a fan of extreme heat. On a recent trip into the western states we encountered temperatures consistently in the low 100’s. We found it very refreshing to find times when we could shelter ourselves from the heat underneath the shade of a few trees. There we could relax, refresh ourselves and get energy to move on. Our Heavenly Father wants to be the shade you need to move on. Physically, heat causes exhaustion, dehydration and other debilitating conditions. The shade our Father gives us protects us from the elements spiritually, just as the shade of a tree refreshes spiritually.

the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.

For many years, the moon was thought to attack the mental health of an individual. The word ‘lunacy’ is derived from the word lunar, or moon. This last phrase of this section of the Psalm has special meaning for us. Not only does our Father protect us from the things we see, he knows our mind. He knows how thoughts and attacks from people can hurt our self-esteem, our confidence and our sense of well-being. We can come to him as our safe-place. We can share our feelings with him without fear of judgement or criticism. There will always be those who attack us. There will always be those who shake our hand and greet us warmly while they stab us in the back. There will always be those who we can not trust. So when those things happen remember, we have a Father who passionately waits to hear our hearts. He’s our safe place. Day and Night. In the heat of battle and the quiet of the evening.

No matter where you find yourself in life, your Heavenly Father is there and waiting to hear from you. Your Father is well aware of everything that you struggle with. You can come to him in confidence knowing he has the power to protect you from things seen and things done in secret.

Grace Nuggets: Simple reminders of God’s great love for you.

Grace Nuggets: Simple reminders of God’s great love for you.

Last week I dropped my wife and daughter off at the airport. As I left I offered up a prayer for their safety on the flight and throughout their mom/daughter vacation. My thoughts strayed to an interesting fact. I was more likely to get in an accident on the ground than they were flying thousands of miles, thousands of feet in the air, in a heavy metal tube.

While travel is relatively safe in our nation, such was not the case in the lives of the Israelites. Difficult terrain, walking was the main mode of travel, and there was a good chance that predators (human and animal) were lurking around every corner or rock, ready to attack. The rough terrain offered a third threat to the safety of their travel.

Hebrew pilgrims would make the journey to Jerusalem to worship at the temple several times a year and the journey was always treacherous. Along the way they would sing songs to encourage themselves and any traveling companions they were with. Songs that reminded them of God’s great love, power and promises of protection.

One of those songs, Psalm 121, begins “I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” It was a song sung in the wilderness. It was a song sung in the midst of fear, uncertainty and danger. When life goes wrong we have a tendency, in our human minds, to focus on the danger around us. The more we focus on our struggles the more we tend to see them grow.

When life is hard, when relationships fail, when you can’t break the addiction, when the finances are far shorter than the paycheck, when the political/social climate is frustrating and confusing, our tendency is to look at all the ramifications of that. But the Psalmist has a different idea.

When things are looking down, look up! The Psalmist realized that help didn’t come from the wilderness he was in. The hills were a sign of both danger (predators loved to hide behind rocks) and victory (the Temple was at the top of the hills).

Victory would come at the end of the journey but while in the journey two things were promised. First of all, there would be trials. There would be danger. There would be disappointment and confusion. On the journey there were no guarantees you would make it safely.

The second promise is that help was available through the Creator God of the universe. God never promises life will be easy. On earth there are no guarantees from social action to government intervention or ‘financial stability’. The only real help comes from a God who loved us enough to send his son to show us what he is like, to show us what love and forgiveness looks like and to promise us his help in every situation.

So, two questions today. First, ‘What wilderness are you walking in?’ The wilderness of anger? The wilderness of worry? The wilderness of doubt? The wilderness of hate? Each of us has a different wilderness.

Secondly, ‘Where are you seeking your help?’ Relationships end. Finances disappear. Health deteriorates. Families fail. Governments fall short. But there is one who is the same yesterday, today and forever. He is unaffected by the wilderness. He is more powerful than the predators on your journey. He longs for a relationship with you. He longs to be able to be your help in adversity. Jesus of Nazareth walks through the wilderness with us!

So, when you are down…look up!

Grace Nuggets: Simple reminders of God’s great love for you.

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June 2023
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