Many of my friends are walking through the valley of the shadow of death at the moment. Some have lost precious loved ones, others are facing serious medical problems which have the potential to be a threat to their physical existence, and a few are struggling with depression which, in itself, can be a life-threatening condition. In a sense, as mortal beings, we all constantly live in the valley of the shadow of death whether we are aware of it or not. I wrote the poem below several years ago when I was staring into to the face of a desire to give up living.
In The Shadow
A Psalm For The Suffering
(Ps 23:4, Ps 17:8)
The gorge of shadows in my mind
With death's voice stalking me,
No hope to leave the valley floor
For lacerating scree.
The only path is through the vale
Of tears and lightless days,
Stumbling through the rocks, despair
Leans on a staff of praise
And staggers on with faintest faith
Shutting out the grief which stings
'Til shadows of this hell become
The shadow of Your wings.
And here I rest to feel Your warmth
Caress my mind with peace
And salve my tattered, bleeding soul
'Til all my weeping cease.
(c) Lynda Scotson
What I discovered at that point in my life was that there is a very close relationship between the horror of the valley of the shadow of death and the comfort of being in the shadow of God's wings.
In Psalm 61:4 David recalls his history with God and his current difficulties prompt him to say that he longs to be in the shadow of God's wings. It is clearly a place of great comfort to him. There are a surprising number of references in the Bible to the shadow of God's wings and each of them teach us something a little different.
The Shadow Of His Wings
The first mention is in Ruth 2:12 when Boaz pronounces a blessing over her. Ruth, he says, has come to take refuge under the shadow of God's wings. This is important because we need to understand that we have a choice about whether or not to occupy this place of safety and comfort. We don't just find ourselves there in difficult times, we have to make the journey, as Ruth did. We have to seek out and take up the offer of sanctuary.
The Psalms have many references to the shadow of God's wings. In Psalm 17:8 we learn that it is a place where we can hide from our enemies. Psalm 36:7 teaches us that we don't have to be anyone special to be able to find this place of refuge - it is for both high and low. In other words it doesn't matter whether you are in church leadership or a brand new believer, you don't have to know your Bible inside out but it doesn't matter if you do, you can be wealthy or surviving on state benefits, you can be a reasoning adult or an innocent child. The shadow of God's wings is available to you.
Psalm 57:1 shows us that we can stay in this place of comfort until the disaster is past. There is good news and there is bad news in this verse. The bad news is that, just as Jesus told us, we are going to go through very difficult times. The good news is that we can stay in the shadow of God's wings throughout those times. It isn't just a temporary place of respite where we can go to lick our wounds before going out and facing the attacks again. God doesn't tell us to stop running away and pull ourselves together. He makes this place of safety available to us for as long as we need it.
Psalm 63:7 talks about singing in the shadow of God's wings. It is a remarkable truth that even in our times of despair, when we draw close to God, we have something to sing about, something to worship Him for. In the shadow of His wings we are close to His heart, surrounded by His love. In Psalm 91:4 we are reminded that under God's wings we are covered by His feathers. We are not simply in the shadow of His wings - He wraps them around us, drawing us close to Himself.
Finally we come to what Jesus said while looking over Jerusalem:
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing." (Matt 23:37)
Here is perhaps the most wonderful truth of all - He loves us so much that He longs to draw us into this most intimate place of the shadow of His wings. These words are spoken over those who have most firmly rejected God and His word to them. Even those who have turned away from the Lord can return and find refuge in Him.
Prayer College Assignment
Ask God to show you how you too can take refuge in the shadow of His wings.