The Shadow of the Almighty
By Gary Piper
There are times when shadows have a negative connotation, some see shadows and the presence of evil. For example in the song The Road to Zion some of the lyrics allude to shadows as adversities. “Sometimes a shadow dark and cold lays like a mist across the road but be encouraged by the sight where there’s a shadow there’s a light.” There’s no doubt in my mind that the use of shadows as a “go between” us and the light of God is valid.
It is not my purpose to undermine such a powerful symbol and to suggest that we not use it however there’s another symbol for shadows that is in my opinion as powerful or possibly more powerful. What I am suggesting is when you find yourself walking with shadows overhead there’s good chance they may not be life threatening or strength sapping instead they may be God’s presence protecting and strengthening you for what is either happening or what yet lies ahead. The Psalmist writes…
“I am praying to you because I know you will answer, O God. Bend down and listen as I pray. Show me your unfailing love in wonderful ways. By your mighty power you rescue those who seek refuge from their enemies. Guard me as you would guard your own eyes. Hide me in the shadow of your wings.” (Psalm 17:6–8, NLT, emphasis mine)
As I was these word appear on my computer screen I look out my living room window and I can see the sun shining brightly yet everywhere I look I can see the shadows caused by trees in our yard, I can see shadows of passing trucks and cars, and I can see the shadows caused by our window treatments.
Shadows are not only a part of life at the same time they are also symbols for life. Last summer in late June or early July I was told I had four cardiac arteries that needed to be fixed. Immediately I felt a dark shadow settle over my wife and I. But it didn’t last the danger of a life taking heart attack and the idea of heart surgery hung over me. As we began to pray and as a host of others (maybe even you) joined us in prayer the dark shadow of anxiety began at the hands of the Holy Spirit to be transformed into the Shadow of the Almighty!
You may find this hard to swallow but I am learning that it is quite possible to walk in the light of Jesus and under the Shadow of the Almighty at the same time. It fact the more I think about it in some cases the Shadow of the Almighty may be Jesus himself. It is this statement by Jesus that resonates with me, “Jesus told him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.'” (John 14:6, NLT) Once we’ve solidified our relationship with Jesus we then have full access to God as pointed out by Jesus in his message to the church in Philadelphia. “…I am the one who is holy and true, and I have the keys that belonged to David. When I open a door, no one can close it. And when I close a door, no one can open it. Listen to what I say.” (Revelation 3:7, CEV)
The bible is filled with stories when people have walked in the shadow of the Almighty. Perhaps the most notable is the 400 year captivity of the Israelites in Egypt and their 40 journey out of Egypt through the wilderness and into the “promised land”. The uniqueness of their story is one of leaving one dark shadow (a famine in their land) walking in the light (welcomed into Egypt) only to walk out of the light and into another dark shadow (400 years of slavery) only to walk into another light (freedom from slavery) and into another dark shadow (40 year journey through the wilderness). While in no way can I really compare my life to the Israelites their journey from one shadow to another out of that shadow into another sounds not so strangely like my journey.
Two of my favorite biblical shadow stories are the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son. I am sure you’re familiar with both of them. Let’s take a look at the Good Samaritan story.
“…A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road. By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.” (Luke 10:30–32, NLT)
While the Good Samaritan story is a parable Jesus used to answer a question thrown at him the story has implications of real life stories. For example several years ago our son and his family set out to visit his wife’s family in Kentucky they hadn’t gotten very far on the freeway when BAM! they hit a pothole and instantly blew a tire. With cars speeding by and no one stopping to help unfortunately we were unable help them they called a friend of who immediately came to their aid and got them going again. Good Samaritans are people of God who transform dark shadows into Shadows of the Almighty.
One day quite a number of years ago I walked into work one afternoon and noticed a commotion by the bulletin board after punching the time clock I walked up to the bulletin board and read. “‘Due to lack of work the following employees will be laid off at the end of their shift Friday,” about two thirds the way down was Gary Piper. Laid off from work with a wife and two young sons suddenly we found ourselves under a very dark cloud. However a couple of weeks later the dark clouds gave way to the Shadow of the Almighty because in the mail was a money order for a little over $100 signed “Some Friends”. The money orders continued for several months and then I was called back to work. Good Samaritans are people of God who transform dark shadows into Shadows of the Almighty.
Another dark shadow to Shadows of the Almighty story that comes to mind from the memoirs of Gary Piper doesn’t involve a Good Samaritan but it does speak of the two individuals who passed on the other side of the road. Rather than bore you with the story here’s how I wrote about it.
Trouble along side the road (written February 16, 2006)
Knock – Knock – Sputter – Sputter – Knock – Knock
Dead on the side of the road.
Car stopped – mind running 90 mph.
I should have… — What do I do now?
Gotta find a phone. — The Tattoo Parlor? — Thank you.
It’s me honey, car died, it sure is good to hear your friendly voice.
Lost on the side of the road.
Life on hold. — People whizzing by.
I am not a bad guy just someone who needs a helping hand.
Sun going down. — Hands getting cold.
Praying on the side of the road.
Where are you Jesus? — Fix my car please? — Is it my faith?
It’s still not working. — Is it un-repented sins? — Please keep trying Jesus.
Found on the side of the road.
Ah, familiar faces. — Found at last, no longer lost on the side of the road.
Go ahead I’m okay I was lost but now I’m found.
Found on the side of the road.
Thank God for family and cell phones.
It’s me, sure is good to hear your voice again honey.
I’m okay just cold and hungry. — Good news a tow truck’s coming!
Alone on the side of the road.
People still whizzing by. — Help someone I’m alone and cold.
Any word on the tow truck? — I’m okay and I’m not going anywhere.
I am here, people! — It sure looks warm in that house across the street.
Jesus, why do I feel like an alien on a strange planet?
Why do I feel like the enemy?
Found on the side of the road.
Two hours later. — Ah, the lights of a truck. — The sound of a diesel engine.
Jesus sometimes shows up as a tow truck.
What’s wrong? — Battery okay motor dead.
Two hours forty-five minutes later my own home greets me.
More familiar faces. — Warmth. Heat. Love.
Spiritual reflections from the side of the road.
Two hours forty-five minutes praying time and every second spent in the presence of the Holy Spirit. Lonely and cold with warm houses nearby I was never really lost just ostracized. I prayed for Jesus to bail me out but instead he stayed with me, thank you Jesus. Jesus, I hope you didn’t ask someone in the neighborhood to help me cause no one did. Holy Spirit plant this experience in the forefront of my mind because I have not even scratched the surface of its spiritual depth.
I am getting ready to bring this posting to a close I wrote the first words under a dark cloud of mild depression. And while I continue to experience those feelings I am doing so now under the Shadows of the Almighty. And as I do I struggle with whether or not that makes me a hypocrite, after all how can Jesus live in my heart and still struggle with depression. Speaking on my own behalf when Jesus began living in my heart and I began living in his I suddenly did not become superhuman and immune to the emotions that come with being human just as the prophet Elijah wasn’t superhuman either as told in 1 Kings chapter 19.
“Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there. Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. ‘I have had enough, Lord,’ he said. ‘Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.'” (1 Kings 19:3–4, NLT)
One of the most powerful scriptures available us that relieves us of the responsibility of living perfect lives immune to our human imperfections is found in Peter’s first letter. “Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.” (1 Peter 4:12–13, NLT) According to Peter fiery trials come with our partnership with Jesus. Jesus agrees, “…Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, NLT)
I remember a number of years ago a good friend Harold Barrett standing in a Prayer and Testimony Worship Service said something like this, “As long as you’re being tested that means the devil doesn’t have you because he is only after those he doesn’t have.” I don’t believe everything that tests us can be attributed to the devil because life itself does a pretty good job putting us under some pretty dark shadows. But what I do believe is whether our testing comes from the devil or life, “Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my (our) refuge, my place of safety; he is my (our) God, and I trust him. For he will rescue you (us) from every trap and protect you (us) from deadly disease. He will cover you (us) with his feathers. He will shelter you (us) with his wings. His faithful promises are your (our) armor and protection.” (Psalm 91:1–4, NLT, emphasis and italics mine)
Grace and PEACE