December 14, 2013

Be still . . .

A rancher living not far from my childhood home raised palomino horses, not a breed, but known for their beautiful color. When foals were born, he would daily hold them in his arms until they stopped struggling. He did this to teach them a valuable lesson. Our prairie landscape was marked with barbed wire fences. Horses who wandered into loose wires would fight until they were gravely wounded. But not those palomino foals. They learned that if held by anything, they should relax and not fight.

From these verses, today’s devotional writer draws a similar idea. It is about our God being near, never giving up on His people, always holding us and teaching us . . .

And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’ . . .  (Acts 17:26–28)

God may not always seem near. If I study my own spiritual life, there are great expanses of time when I didn’t sense the presence of God. He didn’t “feel” close. Of course, those times now seemed marked by me continually hindering Him — by my ignorance, stubbornness, and sinful attitudes and actions. Yet He never gave up. He has kept working on me, shaping me into what He wants.

The devotional writer invites me to think back over my life. Do I remember being restless, unhappy with myself, dreaming of heights I never reached, trying things my experience said was impossible, haunted by longings, even having two sets of standards about right and wrong, one I kept for observers and the other hidden because I was more than half ashamed of? He says to think then of how all of my struggles correspond to being surrounded by an unseen God? He is right; my life was God-haunted until I gave myself to Christ, something like the brain of a sleeper haunted by the daylight until she opens her eyes and gives herself to the morning.

The writer offers another analogy, this time a beast tangled in a net and resisting the kind hands that try to unsnarl it to freedom. The beast writhes and struggles, twisting itself into a more inextricable snarl, but finally catches on, that these kind hands are there to help, so it finally lies still while those hands unbind it.

Be still, and know that I am God . . . (Psalm 46:10)

I remember the palomino foals. They learned not to struggle. Some of them may have even learned how certain movements would help the kind hands that embraced them. When tangled in sin, God wants to set me free. He also wants me to cooperate.

Now I can see the reasons behind those struggles of the past and rejoice in them, and even feel joy concerning more current trials and hindrances. They are allowed by God’s loving hands. He teaches me to stop struggling and learn the way to freedom — it comes by resting quietly in His care.

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