Safe from the devourer

We're under the shelter of God's outstretched wings.

There's no mistaking the cry of a hawk.

Not long ago I heard that distinctive piercing call outside my window and went to investigate. To my surprise I discovered a red-tailed hawk on our front lawn. It was breathtakingly beautiful, but as thrilled as I was to admire it up close, I wasn't nearly so thrilled to note its keen interest in what lay beyond our backyard fence.

We keep a small flock of chickens, and our "girls" are as much beloved as pets as they are for the eggs they provide us. Out of concern for their safety I shooed the hawk away and kept a sharp lookout over the next few weeks. Frequently I'd hear it calling or spot it perched atop a neighbor's roof or in a nearby tree, but the naturally leafy shelter of our property, combined with my own vigilance, kept our hens safe from harm.

I was recently reminded of this encounter when I was scheduled to attend a family reunion. Shortly before I traveled to this gathering, a bitter disagreement flared up among several family members. Religious differences seemed at the root of the quarrel, and it appeared that our family's close-knit ties would unravel.

I went for a walk to pray, and, spotting the hawk circling high overhead, recalled some words of comfort from Mary Baker Eddy, who founded this newspaper.

Mrs. Eddy was a devoted student of the Bible, and in this passage she drew on several favorite verses, noting, "These two words in Scripture suggest the sweetest similes to be found in any language – rock and feathers: 'Upon this rock I will build my church;' 'He shall cover thee with His feathers.' How blessed it is to think of you as 'beneath the shadow of a great rock in a weary land,' safe in His strength, building on His foundation, and covered from the devourer by divine protection and affection" ("Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896," p. 263).

Covered from the devourer! How perfect, I thought, gazing up at the hawk. The Psalmist's imagery continues, "Under His wings shalt thou trust," reminding me that just as my vigilance had kept our little flock of chickens safe from a physical predator, so I could trust divine vigilance to shelter and protect my family from any aggressive mental predator that would attempt to devour our unity and harmony.

The Bible cautions, "Your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour" (I Pet. 5:8). These words of warning take on a whole new meaning, however, in light of Christ Jesus' definitive statement about this so-called devil – that "there is no truth in him." Jesus assured us that the devil, or evil, "is a liar, and the father of it" (John 8:44). In other words, a complete falsehood.

Armed with this conviction, and uplifted by another timeless biblical promise that God "will rebuke the devourer for your sakes" (Mal. 3:11), I prayed for my family, insisting on the fact of God's omnipotence and omnipresence – His protection and affection – and on the consequent falsity and powerlessness of any evil influence that might try to divide us.

As I held firmly to these ideas, my agitated thought became calm. Buoyed by compassion for everyone involved, I knew I could depend on God to keep us "covered from the devourer." Several days later I flew across the country to the reunion. There was no mention of the acrid words that had been exchanged. God's tender love had completely defused the situation. Our reunion was marked not by misunderstanding, but by kindness, laughter, mutual respect, and appreciation.

Whenever predatory thoughts or situations loom on our horizon, threatening to consume our health, prey upon our happiness, undermine our safety – whether in our homes or on a larger stage – we can rest assured that God's infinite, omnipotent love is ever present to "rebuke the devourer" and gather each of us under the sure shelter of His outstretched wings.

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