Retired teacher Debbie Stephens Browder is on a mission to convince as many people as possible to plant trees. The reason? Heat. Extreme heat in the United States is the number-one weather-related cause of death. In response, Stephens Browder says, “I’m starting with trees.” The canopy of heat protection that trees provide is one significant way to protect communities. Stephens Browder explains, “It’s life or death. It’s not just about beautifying the community. It’s about saving lives.”
The fact that shade isn’t just refreshing but potentially life-saving would have been well known to the psalmist who wrote Psalm 121; in the Middle East, the risk of sunstroke is constant. This reality adds depth to the psalm’s vivid description of God as our surest place of safety, the One in whose care “the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night” (v. 6).
This verse can’t mean that believers in Jesus are somehow immune to pain or loss in this life (or that heat isn’t dangerous!). After all, Christ tells us, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). But this metaphor of God as our shade does vividly reassure us that, whatever comes our way, our lives are held in His watchful care (Psalm 121:7–8). There we can find rest through trusting Him, knowing that nothing can separate us from His love (John 10:28; Romans 8:39).