Psalm 91:1: He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
Where is the “secret place of the Most High”? It is found in intimate fellowship with God. The phrase “shadow of the Almighty” symbolizes God’s protection. When you’re in close personal fellowship with God, you’re under His shadow, under His protection.
The other night I watched a fascinating documentary about the famous fresco The Resurrection, by Piero della Francesca, painted around 1463 in Tuscany, Italy. Jesus is in the center of the composition, portrayed at the moment of His resurrection. He is seen rising above four soldiers sleeping at His tomb, illustrating the difference between the human and divine spheres.
Quite a few years ago, our small family was traveling on a freighter from Europe to our new field of service in South America. Due to long delays in the loading of the ship’s cargo, we found ourselves setting sail in the dead of the Mediterranean winter, the same time of year as the apostle Paul was shipwrecked off the coast of Malta.1 We joked about that and casually prayed that our fate would not be the same as his.
Victor was a carabinero, or police officer, stationed at the remote Chilean customs compound known as Los Libertadores, high in the Andes on the border with Argentina. Since Victor had received special training in mountain rescue work, he was usually assigned to dangerous areas like this one. He enjoyed the mountains, but missed his family.
Over forty years later, this episode from a holiday in Scotland is still vivid in my mind. That morning, my friend Adrian and I set out from the youth hostel in Fort William, intent on climbing Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest mountain (1,344 meters [4,409 ft]). We were a pair of adventurous teenagers and brushed off warnings from the locals that it was not a good day to climb.
At about 3 pm on March 11, 2011, the Tohoku earthquake hit the northeastern half of Japan. It was the worst earthquake in that area’s recorded history. Thousands were killed, and hundreds of thousands more were forced to evacuate and move in with friends or into temporary shelters.
Hot air whipped through the open windows as we drove north along a narrow Mexican highway toward Monterrey. There was a stark beauty in the expanses of dry fields on either side of the road, broken only by an occasional tree or house, but the sweltering summer heat and the hum of our van’s motor were beginning to take their toll. My son Shawn and I fought drowsiness. Four fellow volunteers were already asleep in the back of the Volkswagen van. The back highways in Mexico are notoriously narrow, and this long stretch had no lighting or firm shoulders, making night driving even more unsafe than under more “normal” conditions. We were anxious to reach our destination before dark.
Laurita had only been home for a few minutes after visiting me when she realized she needed bread for dinner.
She grabbed her car keys and headed for the store, but as she was closing the door behind her, she heard her phone ring inside the house and went back in to answer it. At the same moment, my home phone rang. It was in another room, so it took me a few rings to get to it. When I answered with “Hello,” so did Laurita. There was a long moment of silence as we each waited for the other to say why she had called. I hadn’t phoned her, I said, and she said she hadn’t phoned me either. I asked where she was, and she said she was at home and everything was okay. Then we both hung up.
Bright sunlight streamed through my window as I pulled back the bed covers, not suspecting that an unforgettable day was about to unfold. I whispered a prayer, asking Jesus’ blessing on the abdominal CT scan I was scheduled to have that morning. I also asked Him if there was anything He wanted to tell me about the day ahead, and I heard His familiar voice in my mind. “I will fight for you. I will face each challenge with you.”