This is an edited version of a post I wrote last November. It is a reminder I have needed this week, and I hope it is an encouragement to you too.
“Those who dwell in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare of the Lord, “He alone is my refuge, my place of safety. He is my God and I am trusting him.”” (Psalm 91:1-2)
This is one of my favourite Psalms. It contains some amazing promises of God’s presence, protection and blessing. It is a Psalm I clung to and memorised during a difficult and uncertain time- sometimes just declaring the words of verse 2 over and over repeatedly.
I also notice though that most of the promises in this Psalm 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 often 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 a massive 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)
I also wanted to mention again that I am planning a series for Write 31 Days in October, looking at how God speaks through songs and uses them to build our faith.
Over the 31 days, I am planning to share some of my own stories of songs that have impacted me, and also to share some of the background stories to songs being written, but I would love to share some of your stories too, of songs that God has used to speak to you, encourage you or comfort you in a particular situation.
If you have a song or hymn that has meant something special to you and you would like to share your story here, I would love to invite you to write a guest post for this series. If you are interested, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org by Sunday 11th September letting me know which song you’d like to write about, and I will send you more details. (You don’t have to have the post written by then, but I will be looking for them to be completed by the last week in September so that I can work out the best order for the series.)