I grew up in a beautiful part of the world - Africa. It has hot sunshine, wide blue skies, waving grasslands, and soft sandy beaches. The flowers seem to like the warmth and are more red and yellow and blue than those I've seen in other places. We didn't do much ice skating or snow skiing in Africa, but we swam all year round, and did lots of water-skiing. And we barbecued almost every night.
But there are times when Africa can be scary. There are lots of wild animals, and insects, and snakes. Many of the rivers have crocodiles in them, and there are lots of sharks in the ocean. So it's very important to learn how not to be afraid.
We lived in a city, but our house was next to a field filled with trees with long, twisting branches. I liked to play there in the daytime, but I found it hard to sleep at night because through the windows I could see the field, and I was afraid of what might come out of the trees in the dark.
I often thought how nice it would be to have someone to always look after me - someone who was used to living outside, like the shepherds I'd read about in the Bible. I knew about shepherds because there are lots of them in Africa, looking after the sheep, and the goats, and the cattle.
I especially loved reading about the shepherd named David, who later became a king. He spent a lot of time alone in the fields with his father's sheep, even after dark. He must have been scared at times, but he was brave enough to rescue lambs from the jaws of a lion and a bear when they attacked the flock. With God's help, he stayed calm (see I Sam. 17:34).
Do you know the poem in the Bible that says that the Lord is our shepherd, and that we have everything we need? (See Psalm 23.) If you don't know it, try reading it for yourself, or have someone read it to you. In our family, we called it "the Shepherd song."
This song told me that if I would trust God in the way a lamb trusts its shepherd and answers the shepherd's call, I would never need to be afraid. Ever. I could be sure that God, my Shepherd, would protect me from anything bad - including danger, accidents, school bullies, failing exams, getting lost, being sick.
A shepherd does a lot for sheep! He or she sees every one of them as special - different from each other, and far too precious to be allowed to get lost.
Carrying a rod with a hook on the end to guide the sheep, and a strong stick for protection, the shepherd leads them in paths where they won't slip and fall. The shepherd avoids poisonous plants the sheep might want to eat, as well as snake-holes and thorns, and finds restful, safe drinking places, and watches over them while they drink. If one lamb were to be lost, the shepherd would leave the others to find the missing one.
I'm still learning that we're really all part of that same flock - God's family. Sometimes I find it hard to believe that God could care for so many people in so many different parts of the world and still have time to take care of me.
But it's true. God is bigger and stronger than anything. And He loves to take care of all of us - including wild animals, insects, and snakes!
That Shepherd song soon became part of my morning and evening prayers. Within a few weeks, I felt so safe that I could hardly believe how I'd changed. I slept soundly every night and never again felt scared of any sound or movement in the field next door.
You can turn to God - the best Shepherd of all - if you're ever scared. There's nothing God can't do to help you.
(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society