God’s Shadow, Our Shelter

This afternoon I reluctantly attempted to write the chorus for a worship song. I never felt the pull to write it, but I did feel the pull to at least try. And it was in the trying that God taught me a bit more about himself. I love how God does that.

Why was I attempting this, especially if I was reluctant to do so? I was following a prompt from a devotional for a small group I’m in. The prompt directed readers to use the working title Shelter, and to read Psalm 91 as inspiration. The minute I picked up my Bible and started reading, I knew why God had given me the pull to try: he wanted to bring Psalm 91:1 to my attention.

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. (Psalm 91:1, NIV)

That’s an image that never appealed to me much. I hate being cold, but love sitting and resting in a warm patch of sun, like a cat finding the sunniest spot to nap in from the light streaming in through the window. So the thought of resting in a shadow—one I think of as dark and cold—never seemed attractive. But as I read this, I thought about that shadow, that resting place. And a thought occurred to me: But God is light.

How can light have a shadow?

True, without light there are no shadows. But the light itself does not have a shadow; the only thing that truly casts a shadow is something standing in the way of the light; that is what gives shape to the shadow. The shadow belongs to the thing blocking the light.

What does it mean, then, to be in the shadow of light? Of the source of light? Not just the source, but just—light?

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5, NIV)

If there is no darkness in him at all, if there is just light, then it stands to reason that the shadow of light is light.

The picture this has always invoked in my mind changed. Rather than sitting in the dark, the coldness, this shadow—the Almighty’s shadow—is a place to which one can run and be bathed in light and warmth. Those who need shelter and rest can turn toward him and feel the light. Because to be in his shadow is to be in light, not darkness; in warmth, not coldness. I saw a picture of a warm embrace, of light and love and truth bathing the one who longs for shelter with peace and rest for the soul.

As these thoughts came to mind, so did one of my friends. This friend is in deep mourning for her sister and is longing for his light.

Friend, you are in it. She is in it. It may not feel like it right now, but God’s shadow is light, and I have no doubt you and your family, who have run to him, are wrapped in his arms and bathed in his light. I pray that you will feel the warmth of his tears—he grieves with you, as he grieved with the family of Lazarus—and feel the warmth of his embrace as he consoles you and cares for you. Know that in him there is no darkness, only light; there is no death, only life.

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