Feed on



He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.

Isaiah 40:11

I’ve been a little obsessed with the animal kingdom lately. We were at a game reserve last year, and there seemed to have been a baby boom across the northeastern part of South Africa. We saw so many mamas and babies. What struck me, and what I have not been able to stop thinking about, was how naturally and instinctively these mamas watched over and protected their young, while simultaneously, the babies sought after and stayed within close proximity to their mamas.


Elephants are highly protective of their young. A mama elephant will charge anything that she perceives to be a threat to her baby. Elephants stick together in family units, and for increased security, they will join with other elephant families to form clans. Many of these family units and clans are comprised of females and their offspring. Lots of mamas protecting their little ones.

Touch is an important communication tool among elephants, especially between mother and calf. Wherever the calf and mother may be, they will be touching. And if the baby is behind the mama, she will reach out and touch her young with her tail. It is a beautiful picture of care, protection, and love.

On the other side of the size scale, sea otters are another fascinating creature! Because of their dense fur, they can sleep in the ocean floating on their backs, but they do not float alone. Sea otters will float in groups called rafts. These rafts can range from two sea otters up to hundreds of otters. They stay close, holding hands in order not to lose each other and to protect themselves from drifting away and becoming vulnerable to predators. Sea otter mamas hold their pups on their tummies and will spend hours fluffing their fur. This is more than just a fussy mom trait, but it is a necessary instinct they do in order to ensure the pup’s fur is prepped well for floating. A mama sea otter will carry her baby through rough waters and hostile environments in order to ensure the safety of the little one.

This picture, illustrated in living color, of intuitive care and motherly instinct is powerful.

Our older three children loved to be held when they were little. Sometimes, if they were feeling exceptionally affectionate, they would run and try to jump into my lap for a quick hug and kiss. Sometimes they would reach their hands up to the sky, a clear message to me to pick them up and hold them in my arms, simply because they wanted to be close to me. Even Jasper, who is not naturally an affectionate little guy, will lay his hand on my lap, or hold my hand close to his chest, when I am singing to him at bedtime. There is something very warm, comforting and affirming when we find ourselves being held by those we love, and who love us.

To be held.

There are so many images and Scriptures throughout the Bible that encourage us to hold on…persevere…cling to Jesus. We can find, in moments of exhaustion, mentally exhorting ourselves to just keep pressing on- and holding on to Jesus.

The challenge is that sometimes we wear out. We let go. Or we wander and get disoriented by the trials and heavy burdens we bear. Our intentions are good and pure…we are doing our best. We are holding on!

He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart…

Thankfully, the burden of our security and our preservation does not lie solely in our hands. Yes, we must hold on, but while we are holding – and in those moments when our grip releases – we are also being held.

We are held in Christ’s hands- gathered up in his strong and capable arms.

He holds us close to his heart.

Like a mother elephant, or the sea otter, he is always near…finding us…touching us with his presence…holding our hands so that we do not drift out to sea.

He will gather them in when they wander, gather them up when they fall, gather them together when they are dispersed, and gather them home to himself at last; and all this with his own arm, out of which none shall be able to pluck them. He will carry them in the bosom of his love and cherish them there. When they tire or are weary, are sick and faint, when they meet with foul ways, he will carry them on, and take care they are not left behind. He will gently lead them.

Matthew Henry’s Commentary

What a reminder of the constant care of God.

Our relationship with God is reciprocal. We reach out to Him and He is reaching out to us. It is not just us holding on to Him, holding His hand, reaching out to Him, but it is also Jesus holding us, leading us, finding us and carrying us. He keeps us safe in rough waters. He is ready to charge when predators come near.

We are safe.

We are loved.

We are His.

How comforting and encouraging.

Wherever we are, whatever we do…in our daily work or our evening rest…as we are holding on to Jesus, He is holding on to us.

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