Prone to Panic

“A southeastern Idaho ranch lost 176 sheep as the animals ran in fear from two wolves…”

This story on my Facebook newsfeed the other day caught my attention.  Curious, I clicked on the link to read more.

According to the owner of the sheep ranch, 119 lambs and 57 ewes were lost in the early morning ambush.  But less than a dozen sheep actually perished from injuries inflicted by the wolves.   The vast majority died from…asphyxiation.  What?  Reporter Mike Koshmrl of the Jackson Hole Daily explains:  “Running downhill in a panic, about 165 sheep from the (herd) were killed, trampled and smothered in their terror.”

The panic attack was more deadly than the wolf attack.

I did some research.  Apparently for skittish sheep, this is not that unusual.  “Even if sheep are not directly bitten or survive an attack, they may die from panic…” (Storey’s Guide to Raising Sheep)  How needless.  How sad.

I’m reminded that I too am a sheep prone to panic.

This is especially true for me in the wee hours of the morning, when a bad dream or a full bladder disrupt peaceful slumber.  In the dark, semi-conscious, I’m more vulnerable to cries of wolf.  Within minutes, “…my anxious thoughts multiply within me…” (Psalm 94:19a, NAS).  And once spooked, fears, doubts and insecurities can stampede into a suffocating pileup at the base of a hill called Reason.

Carrying me right along with them.

What’s a sheep to do?

I have learned over the years to try not to put too much stock into thoughts that intrude in the middle of the night.  Darkness has a way of distorting reality and magnifying problems.  The light of day mercifully illumines Truth.

A definition of faith that I’ve always liked and remembered is this:

“Faith is a refusal to panic.” (David Martyn Lloyd-Jones)

Now if I could just remember to apply it!  For once runaway fears take off, they can be next to impossible to corral.  That’s when I bleat out a plaintive cry for help…

Shepherds and ranchers will go to great lengths to protect their flock from wolves and other predators.  Realistically, they can’t be out in the fields with their animals 24/7.  I was intrigued to learn that some ranch owners have implemented a creative solution known as “livestock guardians.”   Sheep specialist Susan Schoenian describes their function:  “A livestock guardian generally stays with the sheep without harming them and aggressively repels predators.”  Certain breeds of dogs, llamas, and donkeys have proven to be very effective in this role.

I love the beauty and serenity in this picture of a faithful livestock guardian on the job:

Livestock guardian dog

And I realize…God is not only our Shepherd.  He is also our Guardian.

“Once you were like sheep who wandered away.  But now you have turned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls.”  (1 Peter 2:25, NLT)

This Shepherd is not distant or detached.  He is an ever-present Guardian, right smack dab in the middle of the flock.  He is alert and attentive to His timid sheep’s cries for help.  He instantly knows when they’re under attack from doubts within or threats without, whether real or imagined.  There’s no need to push the panic button with Him on the scene.  Sheep in His care can rest, secure in His love, safe in His protection.

I’m His sheep.  He is with me.

As a result I can confidently declare:

“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shalt not…panic!”

Let’s Keep Calm and Trust On!

(Note:  “Guardian” is another great song we sing in church!  You can listen here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MiRH8Hc8VQI )

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