Under The Shadow
Reading Time: 10 minutes
He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” (Psalms 91:1).
This weekly is late because over the weekend, we laid my dear wife to rest, to await the resurrection, where we will see each other again.
I heard someone say recently that learning to live with the loss of a loved one is like learning to live with an amputation. We do heal; but we are never again the same. But on the other hand, IMO, knowing God has enabled me to discover a comfort from, and a closeness to God that many struggle to experience. God promises to walk with us “even through the valley of the shadow of death,” (Psalms 23:4). And in consideration of this “shadow” “in the valley of death,” we can be guided by the fact that there has to be a light to make that “shadow.”
The hard choice for me is whether or not I am going to be angry for the time I didn’t have with my wife, or whether I will rejoice and have gratitude for the time that I did have with her. I don’t want to be angry. I want to heal. I want to see that light that made the shadow. Now, I just want to know what God expects of me as I enter this new chapter of my life. And I want to know how to help others who are going through similar things with grieving the loss of their loved one. There is likely much I don’t know yet about grieving. But I can say now that I feel like a very rich man:
“The blessing from the LORD makes a person rich, and he adds no sorrow to it.”(Prov 10:22).
It is my belief that the great journey of grief was and is appointed to each of us to enable us to not only “survive,” but to thrive, after the loss of our loved ones to the grave. I believe that I have graduated from “survivor,” to “thriver.” And while there is grief, there is no real, lasting sorrow. While no one’s grief journey will be exactly the same as mine; it may be that there would be at least one or two similarities. Resilience seems to be something that God has built into each one of us. I am experiencing it every day. Sometimes it is revealed just by me standing in the forest and watching a Momma Sparrow feeding her young, or sometimes, it will be making a loaf of home made bread for a neighbor. But have you ever thought of reslience, in the form of us asking for help? Can we count this asking for help as “thriving?”
I see a lot of farms in the area where I live. The thought struck me how very resilient our farmers are. I honestly do not know how they get their crops in and then harvested in time. Some years it gets pretty challenging for them. If the weather is really bad, and they suddenly get some sunshine happening for a day, then all the neighbouring farmers will pitch in and help the one who hasn’t gotten his crops in yet. They don’t worry about getting paid. They just work together and help whoever needs it. This is one of the clearest examples of resilience, and thriving I can think of.
Spiritual Comments On Resilience. (Holding On).
No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God — Luke 9:62
The Ploughman: A Symbol of the Person Who Holds On; Who Has Resilience.
Holding on to things doggedly,(or with faith), was one of the controlling thoughts of Jesus. That was why He singled out the ploughman in this text. Ploughmen are not always educated with degrees under their belts, nor are they often poets in disguise. But there is one virtue they all possess pre-eminently, and that is the virtue of resilience, or of quietly holding to it, no matter how rough the weather.
And it is because, in Jesus’ eyes, that virtue is of supreme importance that He wants us to take the ploughman for our own, personal model. “If ye continue in my word,” He says, “then are ye my disciples indeed” (John 8:31). Something more than receiving is required to reach the crown. To hold on when the sunshine vanishes, and there is nothing but clouds in the sky, just trusting that there IS a Light in or above, or beyond those clouds; that is the great secret of discipleship. And I would venture to say, also the key to peace in the heart, and even the key to world peace.
Jesus has borne my griefs, carried my sorrows. (Isa 53:4). For my own situation, when I feel like my own grief journey is faltering, that I am faltering; I know Jesus has already been there, and I just go where He has already been. For me, it all means I don’t have to be strong. It means there is room at the Inn for me to be weak. I can be weak, yet still trust that there is that Light somewhere. I don’t have to know or see. I just have to abide, or trust.
The Importance of Abiding at All Times
John 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
We can see that with marvellous clarity when we meditate on this great word of “abide.” That was one of the favourite words used by Jesus. With those deep-seeing eyes of His He has discerned the wonder of the grape vine-branch. The branch was there—abiding in the vine—not only in the sunny days of vintage.
It was there when shadows fell, and when the dawn was icy, and when the day was colourless and cloudy, and when the storm came sweeping down over the orchards. Through all kinds of weathers, through every change of temperature, through every tempest and through calm, the branch was there. Night did not sever that intimate relationship. Winter did not end that vital union. And our Lord recognized that, as in the world of nature this is the secret and the source of the fruit of resilience. And so is it also in the world of grace. To abide is not to trust merely. To abide is to CONTINUE trusting. It is to hold to it—and hold to Him—through summer and winter, through fair and stormy weather. Nothing could better show the Master’s vision of the great and heavenly grace of resilience; or of holding to it, than His love for and practice of, that great word abide.
Jesus did something about my grief. Jesus went before me, and carried it all to Calvary. Jesus has already “carried my sorrows.” Jesus has borne my grief. (Isa 53:4). All of it. Because He alone knows just what the trials and sorrows of the personal grief journey that many of us are embroiled in, and Jesus knew what it would be like for each of us personally. With the power of Jesus in our hearts and minds we shall never have to attempt a duty for which we are not strengthened, nor to front a danger from and in which He will not defend us. With His life in us we shall be ready for the long hours of uneventful, unexciting duties, and for the short spurts that make exacting calls on us. We ‘shall run and not be weary; we shall walk and not faint.’ (Isa 40:33). If we live in Jesus we shall always be in ‘a land of peace,’ and no ‘plague shall come nigh our dwelling.’
Even when the soles of our feet rest in the waters of Jordan, the waters of Jordan shall be cut off, and we shall pass over on dry ground into the land of peace, where they that would swallow us up shall be far away for ever. There are so many lessons for us in nature and scripture about “abiding,” or “resilience.” It would be hard to make a complete list of them all. For (just as Jesus does) we win our victories by holding to it. By abiding “under the shadow.” We conquer, not in any brilliant fashion—we conquer, simply by continuing, and persevering. By “abiding under the shadow.”
There are troublous times before us; the judgments of God are coming upon our world. The nations of the earth are to tremble. There will be trials and perplexities on every hand; men’s hearts will fail them for fear. And what shall we do in that day? Though the earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and be removed like a cottage, if we have made God our trust, He will deliver us. “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” “Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the Most High, thy habitation; there shall no evil befall thee. . . . For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.” That is what is called resilience.
The presence of God includes every other blessing. Anyone who abides under the shadow of the Almighty can well say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust;” for of every such an one the Lord declares: “Because they have set their love upon me, therefore will I deliver them, I will set them on high, because they have known my name. They shall call upon me, and I will answer them: I will be with them in trouble; I will deliver them, and honor them. With long life will I satisfy them, and show them my salvation.”
Jesus Was Right There: Where Is There?
A certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was — Luke 10:33
The Lord Himself as a Good Samaritan
Our Lord, true poet that He was, had a great liking for pictorial teaching, and in all the pictures of His gallery none is more remarkable than this one. The scene, familiar to them all; the robbery, an occurrence they all dreaded; the ecclesiastics whom they knew so well; the Samaritan, whom they all despised—these made a glowing vivid picture, which nobody but a master could have painted, and nobody but the Master ever did. It is a beautiful etching of benevolence, and as such it is immortal. But men have loved, right down the ages, to find in it something more than that. They have loved to find in this Samaritan a delineation of the Lord Himself, in His infinite compassion for mankind. Many thoughts come leaping to the mind when we set the story in the light of Christ. This Samaritan was long in coming. He had everything the man required (Luke 10:34). But there is another beautiful feature in his pity that is so eminently true of Christ that we do well to dwell on it a little.
As Did The Samaritan, so the Lord Came To Where He Was
Than feature is that the Samaritan came just where the man was—came right up to him, and handled him, where he lay battered on the hedge-bank. When he saw, as he came down the hill, that in the hollow yonder there had been a struggle—when he saw that battered figure by the road, with the robbers probably in concealment, how naturally he might have halted till some Roman convoy had come up; but, says Jesus, he came to just where he was. I feel sure our Lord intended that. Christ was unrivalled in suggestive phrase. The Priest saw him; the Levite looked at him; the Samaritan came right up where he was. How perfectly that exquisite touch applies to the Lord, who was the teller of the story, in His infinite compassion for mankind!
It Was Jesus Himself Who Came To Right There
Think for a moment of the Incarnation. Tell me, what was the Incarnation? It was the Son of God, seeing the need of mankind, and coming in infinite mercy where he was. Not speaking as by a trumpet from high heaven; not casting down a scroll out of eternity; not sending Gabriel or any of the angels to proclaim the loving fatherhood of God. No, this is the glory of the Incarnation, that when man was bruised and battered by his sin, Christ, the Son of God, the good Samaritan, came just where he was. He came to the inn, where the travellers were drinking; to the cottage, where the mother prayed; to the village, where the children romped; to the fields, where happy lovers wandered. He came to the marriage feast and to the funeral; to the crowded city and the sea; He came to the agony and to the cross. Show me where folk are lying ill at home, and I can show you Jesus there.
Show me where people are tempted of the devil, and I can show you Jesus there. Show me where hearts are crying out in darkness, “My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” and the beautiful and amazing thing is this—that I can show you Jesus there.
Where I have personally suffered grief at the death of my wife; and have suffered great sorrow, Jesus Christ has suffered; and He was there personally, all the time. Where we have toiled, Jesus Christ has toiled. Where we have wept, Jesus Christ has wept. Where we have died, Jesus Christ has died. He has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows, and made His grave with the wicked in His death. The good Samaritan has come. Just where we were/are.
Contrasted with John the Baptist
And when we follow the footsteps of the Lord, does not the same thing at once arrest us? Why, that is just what the people marked in Christ, when they contrasted Him with John the Baptist. If you wanted John, you had to search for John. You had to leave the city and go into the wilderness. And there, “far from the haunts of men,” was John the Baptist, a solitary figure.
But Christ was genial, kindly, and accessible, a lover of the haunts of men, the friend of publicans and sinners. Simon Peter was busy with his nets, and Christ came where he was. Matthew was seated at the receipt of custom, and Christ came to him. The poor demoniac was in the graveyard, there to be exiled till he died, and the glorious thing about our good Samaritan is that He came exactly where he was. Where is that bright girl from Jairus’ home? We have been missing her happy smile these days. Where is Lazarus? We used to see him daily. Is he ill? We never see him now.
Where are the spirits who were disobedient at the time the ark was a-preparing? I know not; I only know of each of them that Christ came where they were. Go to the penitent thief upon the cross, and tell him there is someone right there who can save him. Only he must come down, and leave the city, and fly to the wilderness and he will find him.
There are many who offer paradise on these terms when people are powerless and cannot move a finger; but Christ came to where they were. That is exactly what He is doing still. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.” No one needs to fly away to find Him. The Word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth. “Just as I am,” is a very gracious hymn: but I want someone to write me another hymn: “Just where I am, O Lamb of God, You come.”
Living “under the shadow of The Almighty,” it would seem that there is Light In The Clouds. Mercy’s sweet voice peels through those clouds; and is still to be heard today by those who open their heart to Him. Won’t you abide in Christ, today?
Psa 91:1 He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
God is a shelter, a refuge when we are afraid, when we are overcome with grief or sorrow, or the calamity of death or world turmoil. Our faith in God as protector will carry us through all the dangers and fears of life. This should be a picture of our trust in Christ — trading all our fears for faith in him, no matter how intense our emotions might get. To do this we must “live” and “rest” with him (Psalms 91:1). By entrusting ourselves to His protection and pledging our daily devotion to Jesus, we will be kept by His Love. In the very words of Christ are the Light in our clouds:
Joh 15:10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. Joh 15:11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. Joh 15:12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Joh 15:13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Joh 15:14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.
Jesus promises to be right there where you are, “under the shadow…”