I sat in the chair across from her, the space between my ears and shoulders slowly shrinking as tension pulled them closer.
The sound of my teeth grinding echoed over the questions she was asking.
It was nearing the end of our session, and I knew that at some point I was going to have to let my guard down and be vulnerable. Every week it was a hurdle I had to jump over in order to make progress. I didn’t want to feel like I had wasted my time, or more importantly hers. So I took a deep breath and forced myself to zone back in to what she was saying.
“If you picture yourself wielding a weapon against your anxiety, what weapon are you holding?”
“A shield,” I replied.
A couple things just happened there, right? You don’t have to be highly intuitive to know that my response was incredibly telling.
First of all, a shield isn’t exactly a weapon. I honestly felt a bit dumb at the time for saying a shield instead of a sword, a pistol, a rock even? But nope. Instead, I said a shield!
Maybe I could throw the shield? I don’t know, anyway–it’s beside the point.
Clearly I was dealing with a spirit of fear. I was feeling vulnerable, defenseless, unsafe, unprotected, and abandoned. Like a lone soldier wielding a quivering shield…without a weapon. Basically, I was in constant “self-protection” mode.
This moment has stuck with me, even after a year or so of being through with that round of therapy for my anxiety. I remember hearing God’s voice so clearly in my mind after I said that. It was gentle and quiet, but I heard the words loud and clear:
“I AM YOUR SHIELD.”
For the rest of our session, those words rang in my ears. We continued to talk about why I felt constantly unsafe no matter where I was, and how that was exhausting and explained a lot of why I was so anxious.
After I left the session, I walked down the familiar hallway toward the staircase that would lead me outside. All the while trying to remember where to find the verse that matched the words I knew God had spoken to me in that room.
I drove back to my apartment in a haze, and that night I opened my Bible to Psalm 28:7:
“The LORD is my strength and my shield; in Him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to Him.”
During this season of my life, I was trying so desperately to control what happened to me and protect myself from harm. Why wouldn’t I? I was constantly bombarded with horrible news stories of mass shootings, people being mowed down by cars on the street, sudden natural disasters, and losses in my own life that proved to me that life is incredibly fragile, danger is always lurking, and there is not much any of us can do to stop bad things from happening. It’s out of our control. We live in a fallen world full of atrocities that break our hearts daily.
I am sure you can relate. With social media, the news, and the world being more connected than ever, the detriment to our mental health is well documented and widely known. Yet, most of us still feel powerless and unsafe, unsure if we are going to be the next name on a list of people who are the victims of a senseless tragedy.
What I believe God was showing me during this period of my life is that He is the only One who knows everything that has happened and will ever happen to me. He is the only One who is sovereign and in control of everything. I am not.
So I can’t put my trust in myself for protection. I can only put my trust in Him.
I had been tirelessly working to make sure that I never did anything that seemed unsafe to me. That sounds like common sense, doesn’t it? But here is what that looked like for me many days:
Not going outside unless I had to.
Not going out at night.
Not going to crowded events.
Constantly looking over my shoulder when walking alone (and I mean this literally).
Obsessing over whether I was being watched or followed.
I wasn’t living. I was so preoccupied with preserving my own life that I was no longer enjoying the life that I had. I loved the Lord, I knew what the Bible said about how he loved me and wanted to give me hope and a future, but I wasn’t able to live it out because I was letting the brokenness of the world overshadow the promises God said in His Word.
Multiple times throughout scripture, the author is facing impending harm, and cries out to God for help. Just in the Psalms alone I found some other verses that talk about God being our shield (at the bottom of this post there’s a short breakdown of this word in Hebrew)!
“1 LORD, how my adversaries have increased! Many are those who rise up against me. 2 Many there are who say of my soul, “There is no help for him in God.” Selah 3 But you, LORD, are a shield around me, my glory, the one who lifts up my head. 4 I cry to the LORD with my voice, and he answers me out of his holy hill. Selah”
“2 Hear the voice of my pleas for mercy, when I cry out to you for help, when I lift up my hands toward your most holy sanctuary. 3 Do not drag me off with the wicked, with workers of evil, who speak peace with their neighbors while evil is in their hearts. 4 Give to them according to their work…render them their due reward. 5 Because they do not regard the works of the LORD and build them up no more. 6 Blessed be the Lord! For he has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy. 7 The LORD is my strength and my shield; in Him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to Him.”
“18 Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His steadfast love, 19 that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine. 20 Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. 21 For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. 22 Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us; even as we hope in you.”
“Behold our shield, O God; look on the face of your anointed! 10 For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. 11 For the LORD God is a sun and a shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. 12 O LORD of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you.”
What’s helpful in studying bigger chunks of scripture like this, rather than focusing on one verse alone, is that you can easily see a theme here. This theme helps us to understand what principle God is teaching us through the scripture. In these passages, a few things stick out to me.
The person speaking is crying out to God.
The speaker trusts, hopes in, and fears God.
The speaker recognizes that God is able to protect us from harm.
The speaker says many times that God is our shield.
The speaker says that God is our strength.
What I love about these scriptures is that the author doesn’t just describe God as a shield. God is described specifically as our shield. It’s personal. He cares about you as an individual. He is invested in your well-being and wants you to put your hope in Him, even when everything around you is screaming that it would be foolish to do so.
I love how the Lord lovingly called me back to Himself through my experience in therapy. Instead of trying really hard to be my own shield, my own protector, and not living the life I have been blessed with, I am now thankful to say I have learned that God can be trusted with my safety. That doesn’t mean something bad cannot happen to me. It means that no matter what happens to me, I know my God is in control and He’s got me.
There is so much freedom and peace in living in that truth!
Right now we are not far removed from mass shootings in my own state of Texas, in El Paso. Another shooting happened in Dayton, Ohio. At work today someone mentioned another in Philadelphia that happened just yesterday.
What I want to leave you with is this: If you are feeling unsafe right now, run to the One who holds your future in His hands. Run to the One who is your shield. Claim the promises of God over yourself. God is Shavonne’s shield. I can say that! I can say that every day because it’s right there in scripture. He is a strength and shield for those who trust in Him.
Hebrew for “Shield”
מָגֵן mâgên, maw-gane’; also (in plural) feminine מְגִנָּה mᵉginnâh; from H1598; a shield (i.e. the small one or buckler); figuratively, a protector; also the scaly hide of the crocodile:—× armed, buckler, defence, ruler, scale, shield.
The root word of this word magen is ganan (גָּנַן), which is a verb meaning to defend, cover, or surround. I love this because the fact that it is a verb shows that God is actively defending us.