“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will find 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)
This is one of my favourite Psalms. It contains some amazing promises of God’s protection and blessing, but I also notice that most of the promises are conditional. To receive them, we have to be people who dwell in God’s shelter. The word dwell challenges me- it is not just spending a few minutes each day focussing on God and then going on with my day, it is not just running to him when trouble comes- there is a sense of permanence; it is continually residing in his presence and knowing his rest.
It is choosing, like Mary, to sit at the feet of Jesus, when my natural tendency is, like Martha, to be distracted by everything that concerns me or needs to be done.
How do we dwell in God’s presence?
Another definition of the word dwell is “to linger over, emphasise, or ponder in thought, speech or writing” and I think this is the key. What we think about and where we choose to focus our attention have such an impact on our state of mind and our emotions.
There are so many other things we could be dwelling on: problems in the world, stories of suffering and disaster that we hear every day, personal worries and anxieties… but Isaiah writes “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” (Isaiah 26:3)
Focussing on God doesn’t remove the problems and difficulties of life, but it does remind us he is with us in them, and it does lift our eyes above them and remind us that he is bigger than anything we face, and that he is faithful. It allows us to dwell in his shelter and find that refuge and rest, even in the midst of the storm.
“How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of Heaven’s Armies.” (Psalm 84:1)