Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
Surely he will save you
from the fowler’s snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. ~Psalm 91:1-4
Life is hard. Sicknesses, death of a loved one, injustices, unexpected diagnoses, mental illness, miscarriages, addictions, tragedies, natural disasters, and even the seemingly trivial aspects of life can overwhelm us. The burdens we bear can be heavy and our hearts break under the load.
The tendency or temptation is to become numb to these things, so that they don’t affect us as deeply. Or we try to bear the burden on our own and end up feeling crippled and hollow inside.
But what if we were never meant to bear the burdens of life on our own? What if we were meant to be carried?
We often think of walking with God as a nice stroll with an intimate friend, but really walking with God is more like a father holding his baby girl. A father would never expect his infant to walk on her own. The task of carrying her is a delight because he loves his daughter.
When we choose to dwell in God’s shadow, we understand our need for Him. We get that we are incapable of walking on our own. We know that the worries of life are too much for us to bear and so we hide in His shadow, in the safety of His wings.
We allow God to carry us through the difficulties and the joys of life and we discover an unshakable hope, an unfathomable joy, and a peace that passes understanding.
What does hiding in God’s shadow look like? It starts with a knowledge of who God Almighty is. Our trust in God can only be as strong as our knowledge of Him. Is he big enough to handle whatever difficulty we face? Does He have a plan and is that plan good? Can we still trust Him when our world is crumbling around us? Will He fail us or let us down or is He unfailing and faithful? We need to pursue Christ, to know Him deeply, so that we are able to answer these questions. We need to study scripture and we need to look at God’s past faithfulness in our lives.
We don’t get to know God by running in our own direction. When the storms of life come (and they will!), we know to hide ourselves in Him and to allow God to be our refuge and our strength.
Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers. ~Psalm 1:1-3
The first passage of scripture I ever memorized was Psalm 1. I was in 3rd grade and wanted to please my teacher who I adored, so I faithfully memorized every word.
The amazing thing about the Word of God is that it is powerful to effect change in our lives regardless of our reasons for memorizing it. This has certainly been true of Psalm 1 as God has used it over and over again to remind me of where I am supposed to walk.
Will I walk in ways of my own choosing or will I walk the paths where God leads me? This is an important choice we all need to make every single day. We have a plethora of options laid before us and so we must choose where we will walk. In this passage, walking leads to standing and standing to sitting. It is a progression of choices that have the potential to derail our lives.
Motivation speaker, Jim Rohn once said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Whether this is true or not, we are influenced by the people we spend the most time with, so we need to be intentional about where we spend that time and who we spend it with. If our only interactions are with others who are not seeking God, we will find that we will begin to walk in the opposite direction from God and we will become more and more comfortable with sin.
When we choose to not walk down sinful paths, but instead choose to spend our time in God’s Word and learning from him, our lives will flourish, just like a tree planted by a stream of water. Our nourishment will come from truth and the overflow in our lives will be one of righteousness.
Where are you walking and who are you walking with? Are you intentional about the paths that you walk down? Where are they leading you?
Enoch walked with God, and then he was not,
for God took him. ~Genesis 5:24
When I was a little girl, I loved taking walks with my Daddy. Often he would walk on his own, but every once in awhile, he would ask if anyone wanted to go with him and I would jump at the chance. His legs were long and mine were short, yet he thought it was my responsibility to match his pace. I loved this challenge, because I delighted in being with him.
We would walk to the top of a neighboring hill and the sun would shine over the edge, lighting up the fields as it prepared to dip below the horizon. We would stop and drink in the wondrous beauty of a Pennsylvania sunset. My Daddy’s shadow would stretch out long beside him and I would grab his hand and stand so that my shadow would be completely consumed by his.
Now I take walks with my children and I smile as they do the same thing, trying to fit their shadows into mine as my shadow stretches beyond theirs (except for the oldest who has now passed me in stature!).
The concept of walking with God has been one that has captivated my thoughts and imagination from the time I was a very little girl. The story of Enoch in Genesis has given me endless contemplation of what it might have looked like for Enoch to walk with God and then to be no more because God took him.
I wanted to be like Enoch, to be so close to God that I might disappear into his shadow, that when people looked at me, they would see only Him.
This fascination of walking with God has been a theme throughout my life and it continues to this day. I have decided to share a bit of what I have learned along the way in response to current studies in 1 Thessalonians and Hebrews. We are exhorted as followers of Christ to “encourage one another and build one another up” (1 Thess. 5:11) and to “encourage one another all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Heb. 10:25). And so, I pray that my words would be an encouragement to you as we walk in God’s shadow together.
A Fellow Shadow Walker
I have four pretty fantastic kids. I love them like crazy, but they are not perfect. In fact, sometimes they are downright miserable. Sounds like pretty much every single person on the planet, doesn’t it?!!
This past weekend, I had moments where I thought I would burst with pride. I left multiple conversations incredibly encouraged. And then I had a humbling moment that tempered the pride and kept me in my place. And this, my friends, is the most important parenting lesson I have ever learned (and keep relearning apparently!).
It started when I picked my 3rd born up from his Sunday School class. His teacher is a good friend and she told me (again!) that my boy is a “whip”. She said that he always wants to read, is able to answer all of the questions and could probably teach the class if he wasn’t, you know, 8! For a kid who has struggled with being shy and anxious in new situations, these comments on his growth mean so much to my mama heart.
Later, I was chatting with another friend and told her about playing the game Taboo for the first time with our kids the night before. I commented on how surprised my husband and I were when our 2nd born killed it, possibly doing better than his word-loving, game-loving, super competitive mother! We were surprised because this is our kid who had a speech delay resulting in other delays; issues with spelling, writing, and reading. Yet he handled a game, that in our experience has been difficult for youth boys, with ease and brilliance. We were amazed. My friend wasn’t. She has seen his growth over the past 6 years and was quick to tell me that she is impressed with him, with his ability to handle social situations with peers and adults. She informed me that he is a joy to converse with and my heart swelled for the 2nd time that morning.
As I hugged a 3rd friend and thanked her for spending a morning with my kids while we were on vacation, she told me that she just loves my oldest daughter. She found her to be endearing and sweet and while she said all of my kids were a joy, she raved about my oldest. This was precious to me because my girl has been harshly criticized in the past and told that she was a mean girl (with no hope of change- it’s just the way she is). While I knew these statements were not true, they still have been painful for me. So when I hear someone express a different impression of my girl, I am reminded of God’s goodness and faithfulness in my daughter’s life. And again, my heart was blessed.
And then. One of the dear nursery workers found me in the hallway and asked for me to come and handle a situation in the nursery. My precocious 3 year old had pushed a friend and was refusing to apologize. I was not surprised by this. As darling and dear to our hearts as our youngest is, she is also sassy, spunky and assertive (all qualities that when expressed by an immature kid are not so pretty). And so, I dealt with my girl who did eventually apologize (under duress!).
I then headed to the worship service with the thought that parenting is awesome and difficult, often times simultaneously.
What I have learned is that no one (child OR parent) should be defined by bad behavior or mistakes that they make because we are all a work in progress. A child’s future should not be dependent on their ability to handle every single social situation that is thrust upon them. They are not more amazing if they can read at 4 or less amazing if it doesn’t click until they’re 8 or 12 or whenever. Their middle school years with all of the jealousy, selfishness, drama and hormones that they are struggling to understand are not what will determine how they will turn out. And when a 3 year old pushes another child, it does not mean that she cannot learn to love others well.
I have had to learn to not define myself as a mom by my kids behavior. While I hope and pray that they will have hearts that seek mercy and kindness, I am not naive enough to believe that my kids will always respond the way my husband and I desire for them to respond. They are sinners in need of a Savior, just like their Mama and their Daddy. And while it is encouraging to hear others speak highly of my kids, I am completely aware that this is ONLY the work of Christ in their hearts and it has nothing to do with my amazing parenting (because truthfully, that expectation is too much. I’m not always amazing and that’s okay!).
And this is it, the most important parenting lesson ever learned- I cannot change my children’s hearts. I am powerless in this regard, no matter how desperately I would like to make them who I want them to be. This knowledge is both terrifying (I have no control!) and empowering (I can trust them to their Maker who loves them more than I can possibly imagine and who is powerful enough to change any behavior, any weakness, any sin and redeem it for their good and His glory!).
My youngest didn’t act in an appropriate way and I’m pretty sure this is not the last time she will act this way. I know this because in the short time since she pushed her friend, she has hit her sister and pushed her brothers. She has some big lessons to learn, but 14 years of parenting have taught my husband and I a few things. We’re not worried. We know God’s faithfulness. We have seen Him work in 3 other 3 year olds and we are confident in His ability to work in the 4th.
But if I know that I do not need to own my children’s bad behavior, I don’t get to take credit for their good behavior either. What I will own and take credit for is my own heart. Am I being faithful or am I being selfish? How do my behaviors affect my children? Am I actively seeking to woo their precious hearts and point them to their Savior? Am I leaning desperately on Jesus, trusting His work in my children?
As I sat in the service and contemplated all of these thoughts swirling in my head, the offertory played and these words penetrated my heart.
When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free.
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.
This truth is mine, but it is also a truth that is free for my children to accept and embrace. How GREAT is the love the Father has lavished on us (1 John 3:1)!
May they know His love, His salvation, His faithfulness and may they pursue Him with all of their hearts!