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  • Writer's pictureCandice Watters

Overshadowed by Greatness (Psalm 91:1-2)

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. ²I will say to the LORD, "My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust." —Psalm 91:1-2

What does the idiom “to live in the shadow of” mean? A modern dictionary says it means to be “given less attention, or to be considered less notable, important, or successful compared to someone else.” To live in your sister’s shadow, or your boss’s shadow, or even your Dad’s shadow is seen by most to be negative. But what if we could live in the shadow of the Almighty God? Surely that would be a glorious turn of phrase.

This is what Psalm 91 is calling us to dotake shelter in God and abide in His shadow. When we run to God for refuge and are overshadowed by His greatnesswhen we humbly “become less than”we receive the greatest possible blessing: God’s protection.

Does that protection mean exemption from fear, disease, suffering, or pain? A superficial reading of the whole psalm might lead to that conclusion. But slower consideration takes us somewhere else. God says in verse 15, “I will be with you in trouble.”

This psalm isn’t a guarantee that life in God will be pain free. Jesus told us that in this life [we] will face trouble (John 16:33). We know from looking at Jesus’ life and death that the One to whom this psalm most fully applied faced the worst suffering when He died on the cross (W. S. Plumer, Psalms, 850).

This psalm cannot, therefore, be a divine exemption from hard things. Instead these verses promise divine comfort in hard things, and absolute assurance of eternal deliverance. Because God will be with us, we can trust Him in all the frightening and painful circumstances that face us, even the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23:4).

Those who dwell in God will never be apart from God. Whatever comes to us in this life, God will be with us and nothing but what passes through His fatherly hand will touch us (Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 27). This is true comfort: God with us in this life, God for us forever.

The wonder of the opening verses of Psalm 91 is the miracle that Christ made possible at the cross:

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved (Ephesians 2:4-5).

In Jesus, we are no longer under the penalty of God’s wrath but are free to take refuge under His shadow, abiding in God forever.


For Reflection

  1. How is God’s presence in suffering better than a pain-free life apart from the knowledge of God?

  2. Ask God to help you trust His goodness in the midst of your hardest circumstances.

  3. When the heat of life feels unbearable, where do you tend to run for relief? Ask God to help you run into His shadow for refuge.


Candice Watters is the Fighter Verses blog editor. She is the author of Get Married: What Women Can Do to Help it Happen, and co-author with her husband Steve of Start Your Family: Inspiration for Having Babies.The Watterses have three sons and one daughter. They are passionate about encouraging moms and dads to disciple their children.


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