The year 2020 was the year no one expected. Outside of a few prophetic voices from both the secular and the religious communities, no one saw the crisis coming until it was upon us. At this writing, the virus is still active and taking lives in our world. History has recorded similar events, but this one seems more encompassing, no respecter of person, and with, perhaps, an agenda all its own. It has managed to build Godly faith in many yet hamper it in others. Whether a worldwide pandemic or a personal crisis, how do we live through the unexpected events we face?
The silhouette of a lone sheep on the hilltop could be seen throughout the countryside. The flock viewed this sheep as a vigilant sentry at its post, watching and protecting while they peacefully grazed. On occasion, however, these relaxed moments are interrupted by unexpected forces that invade the calm.
As the wind started to pick up, the lone sheep saw on the horizon a dark fog, or perhaps a swarm of some sort, moving towards the flock. Although unaware of any known danger, the flock instinctively stirred with agitation. The sentry’s heartbeat quickened as it turned to look back down the hill in search of the Shepherd. Where was He? Was He resting? Did He go on a journey somewhere? The sheep started bleating to alert the flock, and in response, they froze with uncertainty at what was happening.
After quickly considering the possibilities, the sentry soon realized that the only solution to this situation was finding the Shepherd! It dutifully searched for the Shepherd and listened for His voice. And then a distant call was heard, “Come, come to me.” The sheep followed the sound down the hill, and off in the distance, a flash of light reflected from the Shepherd’s white robe. With relief, this faithful watchman ran to Him, bleating and corralling the others on the way to safety.
Not surprised by this crisis, the Shepherd had prepared a place of safety for the flock in a rocky shelter, gathering rocks and branches and securing sustenance for the days ahead. The sheep had never seen the likes of this foe, and not all were untouched by this invading force, but the Shepherd was with them through it all. Once again, His presence brought peace, and His Words gave guidance to all who focused on Him.
What a tremendous responsibility the lone sentry carried in this crisis. Most flocks include one sheep that is an obvious leader. This sheep, known as the Bellwether, often wears a bell around its neck, and when that chime moves on in response to the Shepherd’s movement, so does the flock. The bell also sends a signal of the flock’s location when the Shepherd is away searching for shelter or food. Usually mature in age and experience, the Bellwether is vigilant in its watch of the Shepherd and attentive to possible dangers. The sheep are confident to follow it because experience has taught them that this leader follows the Shepherd and can be trusted.
In any crisis we face, we want to be informed of the facts, yet the world’s counsel in these moments is often confusing, segmented, and fluctuates from one day to the next. Some information provides opinion, agendas, and emotion rather than facts. No matter what side of the political fence we sit on, the information we receive often does not serve us well. It brings anxiety and fear to those who follow every supposed fact and offered guidance because the facts seem to change every day. Many believe anxiety to be the most significant health challenge we face today. Where do we turn? Peace in a crisis comes when we follow the Bellwether that leads us to the Shepherd.
According to Psalm 139, the Shepherd is never surprised by any event that happens to anyone. When the Bellwether noticed the advancing threat, the Shepherd had already prepared his Shepherd’s tent of rest and provision for the flock. In the same way, our Shepherd prepares a place for us before we know we need it and even a feast in the presence of our enemies. (Psalm 23:5) After all, He is Jehovah Jirah – our Provider!
Those who suffered the impact of the crisis on their way to Him entered His tent of peace. He was with them. The shepherd David wrote, “Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.” (Psalm 23:4)
Do we have a trusted Bellwether? One that brings peace in troubled times and dispels all fear? Yes! The most significant Bellwether we have is God’s Word. Its counsel is not confusing, never filled with half-truths, and it leads us to the Shepherd who never changes, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8) Meditate on His Word, memorize it, and return to it when fears arise. If we closely follow our Bellwether in times of fear and uncertainty, we will find peace, hope, and joy.
Our Bellwether includes a gift. “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27) Peace of mind and heart. Oh, how the world needs that gift today! Through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we will have peace of mind and heart. His bell rings truth!
Leaders, parents, pastors, and many other prevailing voices are a part of our flock, many of them Bellwethers in their own right, as well as those from distant flocks. They do their best to give practical advice and guidance to us on our way to safety amid life’s storms. However, on occasion, their offerings may seem to fall short of the peace we’re seeking. The solution? Follow the Bellwether, His Word, that always leads to the Shepherd!
The Shepherd is calling. Do you hear Him? “Come, come to me.” And receive the gift that only He can give in troubled times – His Peace!