Abiding Under the Shadow

person and shadow

A shadow can be considered a nuisance or a benefit at various times, like when a cloud obscures the sun. On a hot summer afternoon, the shadow from a large cloud is a welcome relief, but on a bitter, cold winter morning, the shadow from almost any size cloud will cause discomfort. A shadow could be a sign of impending danger as well, like when a very large object is about to fall on someone. On the other hand, a shadow could also be an indicator of protection.

The psalmist declares in the first verse of Psalm 91, “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” What a wonderful thought for us, the children of the Almighty, to be under His shadow! Imagine how our enemies would feel if they knew that someone the size of the continents of Asia, Europe, Africa, and Antarctica combined was hovering over us to protect us. Yet that represents only a fraction of how much God covers over us when we dwell in His secret place.

God protects and shelters those whom He loves and who are obedient to His Word. He is ready and willing to shelter us under His shadow at any moment. “He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler,” the psalmist continues to declare in verse 4. His protection resembles a bird that spreads its wings to shield its young. Without the bird’s protective shadow, its young are helplessly vulnerable to predators that are quick to snatch them away. We are also helpless without His protection. His shadow is always ample to keep us covered, no matter how many enter under it, or how extreme the circumstances are outside of it. “Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday” (Psalm 91:5, 6).

shadow of cross

But God’s shadow is only available to us when we earnestly seek it. When we enter and stay in His secret place, we obtain His protection. This place can only be found through prayer and communion with Him. It is an area where we can dwell alone in an intimacy with God that can never be shared with another. As long as we stay in His secret place, His shadow will continually be over us. But when we allow ourselves to be lured away by the cares of this world, we leave the protection of His shadow and expose ourselves to the enemy. “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

God expects His children to continually rest under His shadow. When we choose something else, we deny ourselves the abundant protection that He provides. The devil will try to keep us from abiding there, but God will never keep us out. “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37). Why should we continue to expose ourselves out in the open when He is willing and able to shelter us bountifully? “For thou hast been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat, when the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall” (Isaiah 25:4). Why wait until tomorrow, or next week? Come now into His presence, His secret place, and lodge under His shadow. Allow Him to be your refuge and habitation.

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What’s Next?

“So now that you have graduated from high school, what are you going to do next?”

“Well, if my scholarship goes through, then I’ll be going to medical school; otherwise, I’m going to scale back my plans and go to the state university and pursue a degree in dentistry.”

“That’ll be quite a challenge, but I’m sure you’ll make it. What’s next?”

“After graduating and fulfilling the necessary internships, I hope to be moving into a career as a dentist. Of course, if the money becomes available in one form or another for med school, then I’d gladly continue on there to become a pediatrician.”

“Good for you! Now after you are established as either a dentist or a pediatrician, what will be next in your pursuits?”

“Naturally as I become set in my career, I’ll most likely get married to someone who’s just as well off as I am and have a bunch of kids, you know, the usual routine.”

“Wow! I’m sure that will keep you extra busy. So what’ll be next?”

“I’ll probably make sure that my kids are all set in life and get them into some big time sports program, or, if possible, maybe an Ivy League university, like Yale or Harvard.”

“Sounds like only the best for them. What’s next after that?”

“Well, I’ve been thinking about maybe following through on the rest of the music lessons I began a few years ago. I’m really good on the piano and guitar, you know.”

“Music, too? You really will be living your life to the fullest by that point. So, then what’s next on the list?”

“Oh, what most do at this point—I’ll move on from my dental or medical practice and probably captivate audiences with my musical ability during the rest of my life. I’m sure by that time I’ll be living in a relaxing cottage near the ocean, and maybe even have a second home that will overlook a gorgeous mountain vista.”

“Well, you certainly have your whole life planned out. I don’t foresee any boring moments in it. So, after all of that, what’s next?”

“After that? Why I will just pass away peacefully in my sleep and give mostly everything to my children and spouse.”

“Sounds like a kind and generous plan, but what is next?”

“What’s next? What more is there? Why I’ll have a memorial service and be placed deep into the earth in a beautiful secluded spot at a cemetery, that’s what’s next!”

“OK, so you are nicely taken care of; now what happens next?”

“Look, I don’t know what you are insinuating now with these ‘what nexts,’ but I die—that is it! Life is over. How should I know what happens next? I’m dead, right? It’s done. Kaput. The end. You may exit the auditorium now. The program has finished.”

****

So is it really over when we die? Does life just quit in the grave? Are we destined to just become a collection of bones buried several feet down in the earth, or a pile of ashes that are either scattered through the air or sitting on someone’s mantle in an urn? Can we really plan our whole life, possibly to the tiniest detail, decades in advance?

Let’s address that last question first. Do we really know what our next year will be like? How about next month, or even tonight? We plan much of our future based on what has already happened to us, or on the present, as if we could see the whole picture ahead of our life in advance. Yet we really don’t know what may happen to us even a few hours from now. The doctor may conclude that everything is fine in our health, and yet we could contract a severe case of food poisoning from a meal on that same afternoon and die several days later.

On the other hand, how certain is it that we will get that job or establish that career we were planning for several weeks or years from now? Suppose that ‘perfect’ job turns out to be a nightmare, or someone on that job becomes jealous and gets us terminated for something we never did? What if a parent or family member dies, and we are forced to leave school to take care of the family? What about a car accident on the way to class that forces us to permanently leave college? Or our grades weren’t anywhere near as good as we planned, and we fail to get our degree or degrees? Do we really know that we will find the right person to marry? What happens if our children turn out the total opposite of the way we raised them, causing us much grief, detriment, and ruin?

We may conclude, based on current trends, that the world is getting better and better—only to have a financial market crash, or a disaster, like a severe flood or a major terrorist attack, occur, sending shockwaves across the global economy. What about those ‘unforeseen events’ that happen to everyone? We make all of these extensive travel plans to some relaxing vista and end up not going because of some ‘unforeseen event’ that occurred at our job or at home.

God already knows our future here, and more importantly, He knows what our ultimate end will be after our death. He mentions this in the Bible: “…it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment…” (Hebrews 9:27).

For many, the idea of judgment of their life may come as a surprise. Sadly, we were born in sin, and carrying it out became inevitable in our lives. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). As long as we reject God, and plan out our life without any regard to the possible consequences, while continuing to live in sin, we leave Him no choice but to bring us to judgment after we leave this life. “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth [remains] on him” (John 3:36).

The good news is, that we don’t have to be destined to this judgment. In fact, God never wanted or intended for us to be in, or controlled by, sin, and thereby judged in the first place. God loves us more than we could ever imagine. “But God commendeth [presents or shows] his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God is holy and can never allow any sin in His presence ever. That is why he sent Jesus, His only Son, to this Earth, who willfully came to fulfill all of the necessary requirements laid out in the Old Testament of the Bible for the permanent covering of our sins. Only Jesus was fully qualified to do this. We, in our naturally sinful state, could only fulfill these laws on our own to cover our sins temporarily.

He wants us to come before Him, and love Him in return, not reject Him. God has gone to great lengths to make it possible for us to trust in Him for our life. He does not expect or want us to plan and work out our life on our own. This only results in sin, and ultimately, judgment after death.

We need to “believe on the Son.” In other words, we must accept His death and sacrifice on the cross as if they were our own. We need to leave our sinful ways and trust in Him for our future. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten [born] Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). When we die, our natural, physical life comes to an end, whether we end up in the grave or by some other means, but our spiritual life continues on into eternity. Whether it will be eternal life in Heaven, or eternal death in Hell depends on whom we place our trust in: Jesus or our self. Only Jesus can bring real satisfaction and freedom. “If the Son [Jesus] therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36). We can’t plan our whole life without God. Our next reply to the question “What’s next?” needs to be “God‘s next.”

For even more information about what’s next, please click here.