When I was a child we played a game in which we would each stand straight as a board and then try to fall backward into the strong arms of an adult who was waiting to catch us. It’s strange, but no matter how many times I’d seen it done or tried to do it myself, it was still difficult to keep from bending my knees or doing something else at the last split second to try to break my fall. Not chickening out took a certain “letting go” that went contrary to my natural reasoning and reflexes. It took complete trust in the one who was catching me.
In the Christian life we often use the expression “leaning on Jesus,” or, as the old hymn goes, “leaning on the everlasting arms.” The picture is of one leaning on Jesus for support while passing through life’s difficulties. I’ve done a lot of “leaning” in my life. And I have found Jesus to be strong and stable, full of strength and comfort. I leaned hard on Him through several long and difficult years when my husband battled a life-threatening illness. I leaned harder still when I walked the difficult road of cancer myself. But there was never a time that He wasn’t there to lean on. Even when the road was too difficult for me, He lifted me up and carried me.
There recently came another time in my life that was so difficult it left me despairing again. The night had closed so dark around me that I couldn’t see Jesus or feel His presence. I knew He was there, somewhere, but why did He now seem distant from me? I pictured myself reaching out, grasping at air, searching for His love and strength. Then, in answer to my deepest prayer, I heard His tender voice tell me, “The reason you haven’t been able to see or reach Me is that I’m not in front of you. I’m right behind you. My strong arms are around you, holding you from behind. All you have to do is lay your head back on My shoulder and rest. Don’t reach. Don’t struggle. Don’t try so hard to find My presence. Just lean back and rest in My everlasting arms.”
The peace that filled my heart was so complete that it entered every fiber of my being. During the difficult months that followed, I leaned on Jesus like never before. It’s hard to explain, but it became a different type of leaning, somehow more complete.
Then my circumstances became more difficult still. I developed a chronic, debilitating condition, and at times pain took its toll. It was during this low time, when I had no strength of my own, that I heard Jesus’ gentle voice again, telling me, “Fall back! Just trust Me completely and fall back into My arms—like the game you played as a child.”
The experience seemed very real as it played out in slow motion in my mind. I felt myself standing in the middle of a blustery storm, atop a mountain of woes. I spread my arms wide open, leaned back, and fell with total abandonment, total surrender, total trust. Slowly I fell out of the realm of trouble and storm and into Jesus! I felt the soft landing envelop me with love. I found myself floating in a beautiful, dark stillness, dotted by tiny stars. I would call it space, but this place was not empty. It was alive, and the very nature of it filled me with courage and faith.
I felt it lift me up, up, up, high above the mountains. I felt the fresh, cool wind blow in my face. Riding on the wings of the wind, I was flying! I thought of the verse, “Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles” (Isaiah 40:31). I felt joy return to me, and my spirit receive new strength. It was refreshing and exhilarating!
Then I heard His voice speak again. “This is your place of freedom. When your body is held captive on a bed of suffering, let your spirit fly. Just fall. Fall on Me. Let yourself go and fall.”
Suddenly “leaning” took on a whole new meaning. In falling I learned to completely let go and fall—not onto but into the everlasting arms. What a wonderful experience!
Science with all its knowledge and experience hasn’t come up with a pill for true inner peace that transcends any circumstances. There is no magic potion for a soul lost in hopelessness, no tonic for a spirit crushed under the weight of an unbearable burden.
I have been there, and I have found that peace. Though my outward condition remains unchanged, inwardly I have been healed—healed of an inner pain more difficult to bear than pain itself. I am free!