Some months ago, my wife Pari decided that it was time to visit her mother in India. There are challenges in arranging such a trip, but by far the greatest challenge is how daddy will take care of four children for two weeks.
One can only appreciate the daily ministrations of a mother, when she is absent from the home. Being the third trip in recent years, our four children could easily write the authoritative work on why mommy should not leave them with daddy for two weeks. Compounding my inadequacies as a “mother,” November was shaping up with an unusually heavy load of work and other commitments. It seemed quite impossible, but the tickets were bought. If you can imagine daddy trying to braid his daughter’s hair, learning to work a washing machine, etc… well, you can only imagine, if you have shared the same fate.
Many of us face far greater challenges than this, but all of life’s great struggles have a very good purpose. Through difficult experiences, we are drawn closer to God. Amidst our greatest extremities, whether failing health, a reversal in finances, or friction in marriage or family we are reminded that God is ever present. And more than being present, He is the source of wisdom and grace that will quiet our hearts to a contented peace [See Philippians 4:11-13].
With this in mind, I’ve reconsidered the well-loved passage from Psalm 91. He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
All too often, as long as God provided a comfortable “refuge,” my faith was quite unshakable. Unfortunately, that “refuge” too often meant good health, money in the bank, good prospects for our children, and stability at work and marriage. Too often, we rely on these outward circumstances – to decide whether or not life is under control.
After 15 years in China, the responsibilities for a large and expansive missionary effort had worn Hudson Taylor very thin. The practical burdens were immense, poor health was often present, and his spiritual longing for communion with God was often a great burden. He writes to his mother, I have asked you to remember me in prayer, and when I have done so there has been much need of it. That need has never been greater than at present….My position continuously becomes more and more responsible, and my need greater of special grace to fill it.
His diary speaks of a frequent striving for faith and communion with God. These fruitless strivings ended after meditating on a passage from the book entitled Christ is All. The end result, in Hudson’s own words, “was the dawn of a glorious day.” He writes to his sister in England. ….But how to get faith strengthened? Not by striving after faith, but by resting on the Faithful One. …I have striven in vain to rest in Him. I’ll strive no more. For has not He promised to abide with me – never to leave me, never to fail me? He never will.
Nor was this all He showed me, nor one half. As I thought of the Vine and the branches, what light the Spirit poured direct into my soul! How great seemed my mistake in wishing to get the sap, the fullness out of Him! I saw not only that Jesus will never leave me, but that I am a member of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. The vine is not the root merely, but all – root, stem, branches, twigs, leaves, flowers, fruit. And Jesus is not that alone – He is the soil and sunshine, air and showers, and ten thousand times more than we have ever dreamed, wished for or needed … Oh, the joy of seeing this truth.
Hudson Taylor became a new man! In the succeeding months, work was never more plentiful, so responsible or so difficult, but the weight and strain were all gone. Trials came, deeper than ever before, but through them all, “joy flowed unhindered from the presence of the Lord Himself.”
We need not bear the burdens of life as though our efforts were our only source of help. God calls us to dwell in such nearness to Him that His very shadow is cast upon us. And being grafted into Him (the Vine), we may abide in Him and draw life from His fullness. What a wonderful answer to the routine and greater challenges the come our way.
On this Sabbath day, may you draw from the fullness of God and be conscious that you dwell in the Shadow of the Almighty. Here I feel is the secret: not asking how I am going to get sap out of the vine into myself, but remembering that Jesus is the Vine – the root, stem, branches, twigs, leaves, flowers, fruit, all indeed. Aye, and far more too! He is the soil and sunshine, air and rain – more than we can ask, think, or desire. Let us not then want to get anything out of Him, but rejoice atbeing ourselves in Him – one with Him, and consequently, with all His fullness. Not seeking for faith to bring holiness, but rejoicing in the fact of perfect holiness in Christ, let us realize that – inseparable one with Him – this holiness is ours, and accepting the fact, find it so indeed.