Before I close the curtains at dusk, I pause by the window to gaze at winter snow shadows. Approaching night intensifies the blue of sky to depths of color soaked in by unmarked fields of snow. Words fail to describe the shades of translucent blue, green and violet stained across white. Such beauty in shadow transfixes me, then causes me to praise the One who paints light and dark in a palette beyond scope, even when few see it.
The shadow of God can seem to blot out light sometimes, when I struggle with tragedies, hardships, loss. When I finally quit fighting against circumstances long enough to seek Him, I find the dusk is of His own making and it is beautiful because in it is my refuge.
“He who 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. He will cover me with His feathers, and under His wings I will find refuge.” (Psalm 91:1, 2 & 4 NIV)
The writer of this psalm lived in an environment where shade was sought as protection from the harshness of the hot desert sun. Shadow is used as a conventional Hebrew metaphor for protection against oppression. The outreach of God’s shielding power is portrayed as shadowing wings providing refuge from damaging sun.
Walking in the shadows can be a frightening journey. It is hard to see where my next step should be or what lies ahead. I have been frozen with dread in the shadows, too afraid to move ahead, not able to turn back. A decade ago the spectre of cancer enveloped my life, darkening my vision and blotting out the future. I had nowhere to turn but to God. He alone heard my deepest groaning, saw my tears, spoke into my pain. I could not understand why the world had suddenly become such a dark place, then I gradually realized the absence of light was not evil but a shadowy refuge where I truly discovered who God is. I could not see God in the darkness of my affliction yet when I reached out in the shadows, there He was. The things I learned about God’s character — His love, His faithfulness, His strength, His provision — I would not trade for a lifetime of ease.
As I draw the curtains across the window my eyes rest on shadows lengthening across the snow, softening angular lines of buildings and fences, covering winter-bare bushes in swaths of deep blue. There is refuge in the night, a time of shadow and rest.
“I will bless the Lord who has given me counsel; my heart also instructs me in the night seasons. I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.” (Psalm 16:7 – 8 NKJV)
When shadows fall I have no choice but to rest. In my humanity I first strive to do and to fix but soon come to realize I can not affect circumstances. God wants me to rest under His wings; I do not need to see what is going on beyond them as He undertakes for me as my protector. In the night seasons my heart instructs me to set the Lord always before me. I have come to realize it is against the shadows He has allowed where His holiness shines most beautifully. And I find refuge there.