SHADOWS (June 14, 2016)

Brian Bell 2016
Brian Bell shares a meditation on sorrow, shelter and security…

Robert and Maureen McQuillan’s recent article, God’s Mysterious Ways (https://connectingwithyou.net/2016/06/04/gods-mysterious-ways-june-4-2016/), brought to mind the lyrics of that old (1943) E J RollingsStanding Somewhere in the Shadows song, very popular once.

Perhaps these words may be familiar to you –

Are your crosses too heavy to carry,
And burdens too heavy to bear;
Are there heartaches and tears and anguish
And there’s no one who seems to care?

Standing somewhere in the shadows you’ll find Jesus,
He’s the friend who always cares and understands.
Standing somewhere in the shadows you will find him,
And you’ll know him by the nail prints in his hands.

Then, interestingly, at our weekly church prayer meeting last night, a man spontaneously began singing ‘Standing somewhere in the shadows.’ I knew instantly it was ‘my cue’ to pray and later write these thoughts that the Lord led on my heart.

Shadow life
When I think of those words they remind me that it is not Jesus who is standing in the shadows – it is  men and women ‘lost’ in the shadows of life.

ShadowsJesus can be found in those situations, even by believers who can sometimes find life may overshadow us. I’ve known those times myself and found Jesus was there for me – and he has used the encouragement of friends and mentors like Robert and Maureen.

With that in mind I share these thoughts about shadows, quoting from Psalms, NLT version.

Shadows speaking of sorrow (Psa. 23:4)
There are many things in life which we may never experience –

We may never know great wealth or a position of great power or popularity in the world – however it makes no difference who we are or whether our position in the world is humble or high – at some point sorrow will touch our lives.

In recent months we saw the sorrow which has touched the lives of people around the world because of the destruction caused by terrorism and natural events such as earthquakes. I’m sure some reading this article could call to mind personal sorrows which have touched their lives.

King David was no exception – when he was a shepherd he knew what it was to literally walk through the valley of the shadow, in the shadow of a lion or a bear might lurking in waiting for the sheep – or even for the shepherd.

Later in his life David hid in the shadowy valleys of the wilderness as he sought to escape from King Saul. However in this verse he reminds us not only of the certainty of sorrow, he speaks about a consolation in sorrow –   ‘You are close beside me’ (NLT).

When David was leading his sheep through the valley he would tap his rod on the rock which made up the narrow side of the valley and those sheep which could not see him or hear his voice would be comforted by its sound.

The story is told of a young man and his daughter returning home after burying his young wife, her mother. His little girl asked if she could sleep beside her dad that night. In the darkness he heard the child’s voice: ‘Daddy it’s very dark and I can’t see you, is your face toward me?’

‘Yes’ said the dad, ‘my face is toward you’ and with that comfort the child fell asleep.  As he thought about this the dad slipped out to the side of the bed and knelt to pray: ‘Lord, it’s very dark and I can’t see you, is your face toward me?” Instantly he felt the Holy Spirit assure him of the Lord’s presence and he too soon fell asleep.

In times of sorrow it is a blessing to know the help of family or friends – but there are times when only the presence of the Lord will do. There is a closeness in the Lord’s presence, especially when the shadows bring sorrow.

Shadows speaking of shelter (Psa. 91:1)
I am sure that we all enjoy going for a holiday.

Our choice of holiday destinations may differ – many people choose to go somewhere sunny and warm. My wife Eveline likes to bask in the sun – I personally really enjoy the warmth of sunny weather but I also like to be sheltered.

The above verse speaks of the greatest shelter in life: ‘Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.’

You may be familiar with the words of the old Vernon J Charlesworth (ca. 1880) hymn, A Shelter in the Time of Storm:

The Lord’s our rock in him we hide;
A shelter in the time of storm.
Secure whatever ill betide,
A shelter in the time of storm.

As believers we may find shelter daily as we find a time to meet with the Lord in prayer and meditation. While the place and precise time of day may be different for each of us, what we often call the ‘quiet time’ is a time of sheltering.

We may also find shelter in our fellowship as we meet with others, share in worship and the ministry of God’s word.

So while shadows are certainty and there is consolation in the closeness of the Lord’s presence – there are times when he covers us – I don’t think we really know how much the Lord shelters us in the circumstances of life – how many things he has kept from harming us – perhaps you can recall situations in your life when as I do, looking back on them you see the Lord’s providential hand and as the song writer, Paul Williams, penned: ‘I’m covered over by a shield of love.’

Shadows speaking of security (Psa. 63:7)
This verse acknowledges God’s protection: ‘I think how much you have helped me, I sing for joy in the shadow of your protecting wings.’

The image here is that of chicks in the protection of their mother’s wings – remember how Jesus wept over Jerusalem – declaring how often he would have gathered them as a hen gathers her brood, but they would not let him (Luke 13:34). When we feel secure in our homes we are able to relax more easily and sleep better!

In recent years we have been reminded about the uncertainty of the security of financial institutions, we have seen the impact of the security which is imposed to try and provide safety in air travel.

God’s word tells us that he is not willing that any should perish (John 3:16) – this is an indication of God’s goodness. We are also told the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:23).

‘Death’ speaks of separation – physical death separates us from loved ones at the end of life. However spiritual death (a reference to the soul) is separation from God for eternity.

Jesus’ sacrificial death on Calvary saw God’s justice on sin. Perfectly fulfilled, by Christ alone, it offers security in a salvation which no one can earn by my good living (self-righteousness), or by following the rituals of any church or religion.

The only protection we have from this separation from God is to realise we are sinners and, in genuine repentance and faith, open our hearts to receive forgiveness that comes through faith in the Lord Jesus.

From dark shadows speaking of spiritual death to spectacular light!
When we accept Christ as Saviour, we’re instantly removed from the shadows of eternal death and transferred into his glorious kingdom of light!

1Thessalonians 5:5 states, ‘For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night.’

‘Darkness’ here is skotos – from the base of skia as used of spiritual darkness in Matthew 4:16NTL, ‘The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light. And for those who lived in the land where death casts its shadow, a light has shined.’

Walking in the light

Emerson’s quote above is good – but our ‘sunshine’ comes from living in the light Jesus has given us. Let’s walk in that statehood as God’s children of light!

Brian Bell attends Christ Church (Congregational) Abbots Cross, Northern Ireland and describes himself as ‘grateful for the privilege and opportunity given me to serve my Lord.’ Brian is also a volunteer with Disabled Christians Fellowship Ireland. Link: brian.bell22@btinternet.com

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