…your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4 NIV)
For a season during my teenage years the apartment complex we lived in didn’t feel completely safe at night. More than once my sister and I heard rustling in the bushes outside our bedroom windows and I wasn’t taking any chances. Just inside my closet door was a sawed off, game-used NHL hockey stick that was my ready defense. I was working for the local professional team at the time and it wasn’t unusual to bring home a broken, cracked or discarded stick from one of our players. I cut this one off just above the blade and made what I thought was a suitable weapon should the need arise. One night my makeshift nightstick served us well. Around midnight one Saturday I was awakened by shrieks coming from my parents’ bedroom. I rushed into the common hallway in time to see my dad flick on the light switch in their room. My mom was standing on the bed yelling, “There’s something in the room! Something is over there behind those books!” She was pointing to two or three stacks of books in the corner by the bed.
I quickly moved that way and peered toward the corner. She was right. Best I could tell, during the afternoon as my dad was grilling on the patio with the sliding door open, a rat from the adjacent field made its way into our apartment and down the hallway into my parent’s room. Now, the rat was trying to rejoin his buddies in the field, but how? In addition to my mom's shrieks the rat was making a high-pitched noise of its own. When I knocked the pile of books over with my foot the rat went scurrying behind the bed. It emerged on the other side and again found shelter in the corner behind a stack of my dad’s Golf Digest magazines.
Momentarily stalled, the rat gave me time to dart back to my room and retrieve my hockey stick. With one jab into the corner the rat let out his final cry and fell silent. Being the classic under-reactor I turned to my mom and dad and said, “Sleep well,” and went back to bed.
My dad disposed of the rat and calm returned. But man, I was glad I had that stick!
The problem for those who battle anxiety (and I realize I just added to someone’s plight by telling that rat story) is there isn’t a stick big enough to defend us from every fear we face in life. But, thankfully, we have a Shepherd who has pledged to defend us.
David said of our Shepherd, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me, your rod and your staff they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4 ESV)
Every shepherd in the time of David had a rod, a formidable staff carved out of the center of the lower part of a tree trunk. With that rod the shepherd could fight off the lion, the cougar, the wolf or the bear. With the staff it would guide the sheep, but with the rod it would pulverize anything that tried to snatch one away.
To put an “X” through your anxiety you are going to have to see Jesus as your defender. So often when we feel under attack, vulnerable or stressed we look for someone who will take up our cause no matter what. Someone, as we say, who has our back!
We’ll say something like, so-and-so is saying things about me, but Sarah has my back!
We all mean well, but can we just stop and think about that statement for a minute? How big is Sarah? Five-feet seven inches? One hundred and twenty-nine pounds? Yeah, she’s scrappy, but can she really protect you? And what’s going to happen if she decides to bail like your other friends? Who’s got your back then?
Don’t get me wrong. We all need friends who will stand with us through thick and thin. But if we are finding comfort in someone like us, then what kind of comfort do we have?