I limped slowly to a nearby playground, my journey labored due to a sauce bottle which landed on my toe a few days earlier. I lifted up my heart to the Lord: What does my soul want to say to you, Jesus?*
I am weighed down, sad, irritable, tired of these new restrictions imposed on me, weary of the blurred lines between work and home life, feeling unheard— just not quite right.
The weather was perfect. The sun shone warm on my skin—that fine line between a hug and a stifling squeeze—almost too hot, but not yet. And what do you want to say to my soul, Jesus?
I crossed the street, stepped onto the grass and walked up a small slope. Passing under the shade of a giant tree, I immediately felt relief flood over me and my burdens fade, not only from the sudden drop of temperature, but from the Holy Spirit.
Come into my shade, the Spirit said. Tears pricked my eyes. Shade. Yes, I need shade, my soul replied, but what does it mean?
Finding a bench to perch on, I pulled out my phone for some research.
There were multiple meanings for shade in the dictionary. The ones that matched my situation were “comparative darkness and coolness caused by shelter from direct sunlight” and “shelter (as by foliage) from the heat and glare of sunlight.”
More importantly, what does the Word of God say about shade? A quick search revealed that shade and shadow are the same word in Hebrew—tsel. (My cross-cultural friend told me later me that this is also true in other languages.) It means protection or defense. There are forty-nine occurrences of this word in the Old Testament.
The Lord watches over you—the Lord is your shade at your right hand.Psalm 121:5 NIV
You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in their distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat. For the breath of the ruthless is like a storm driving against a wall.Isaiah 25:4 NIV
How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.Psalm 36:7 NIV
Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.Psalm 57:1 NIV
Whoever 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.”Psalm 91:1-2 NIV
I have put my words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow of my hand — I who set the heavens in place, who laid the foundations of the earth, and who say to Zion, ‘You are my people.’”Isaiah 51:16 NIV
These familiar verses comforted me and reminded me that God is my protection during this uncertain time. A phrase of a familiar hymn popped into my mind: “Great is thy faithfulness, oh God my Father. There is no shadow of turning with thee. Thou changest not, thy compassions they fail not, as thou has been thou forever will be.”
I looked it up and, to my delight, found the reference in the epistle of James in an old translation:
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.James 1:17 NKJV
My faithful, unchanging God is my shade. He casts a constant shadow of protection over my circumstances, my grief, my pain, my discomfort. He brings relief from my burdens. I realized that I have been moving out of his shade and leaving his shadow. I needed this reminder to come back to his shade, to remain here.
So how does this look like practically for me? It means I will take some time every day to stop and remind myself who God is and abide in him, even if only a few minutes. I will pause to open my soul to the Lord to hear what he wants to say to me, to cast my cares on him, to unburden my mind and soul to him. To simply sit still, rest in his shadow and know that he is God.
How can you sit under God’s shade today? What will that look like for you?
Which of the verses above encourage you the most and why?
Father God, thank you for this image. You cast a God-shaped shadow over my life and provide shade from the heat of the storm. Thank you for your gentle reminder to mentally stop, rest, and remind myself who you are and why I need you. This time in your shade has brought peace, clarity and some guidance to navigate the upheaval I’m experiencing elsewhere. I rejoice that there is no shadow of turning with you.
*These two questions were asked of me by Ruth Haley Barton in a webinar I watched last week. She addresses more like this in her book, “Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership.”