February 3, 2011
Stay In the Shade
Marybeth Whalen 

"There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place."

Deuteronomy 1:31 (NIV)         

Devotion:
Last summer I ran almost every day, often in the hottest part of the day. As I ran I would anticipate the moments when I would run under the shade trees, receiving cool relief for a few moments from the unrelenting summer sun.

One day as I was running under the shade trees, I said to the Lord (I talked to God a lot as I ran), "Why can't I just stay in the shade all the time?" To me this made perfect sense. I could run under the tree cover every day, always comfortable, always taken care of. Wouldn't a loving Father want that for me, I reasoned?

His answer—as it often does—hit me right between the eyes. Well, that makes sense now, but how are you going to feel about that shade when it turns cold? I had to smile at His point. Staying in the shade makes sense sometimes, but other times it's the last thing we need.

In Jonah 4, Jonah wanted to stay in the shade as he climbed up the mountain to pout about the salvation God had offered the Ninevites. God caused a branch to sprout up and provide him shelter so Jonah could rest under that branch. But then God caused a worm to eat away Jonah's shelter, exposing him to the heat once again.

Jonah became angry and grumbled about his lack of shade. He—like me—wanted to be comfortable. He wasn't thinking about what was best for him or what awaited him in the future. But God was. Jonah's immediate comfort wasn't God's first priority; eternity was.

Perhaps you're in a place of extreme heat bearing down on you. You feel the heat of bad decisions and broken relationships bearing down on you and you wonder why God doesn't provide some shade.

Or maybe you're feeling some cold temps invading places that used to be warm for you. A marriage has grown cold. Your finances feel frozen. Why doesn't God provide some warmth, you might be asking? Maybe because He knows that soon you won't need that shade or that in the future that warm place is going to keep you from becoming the person He wants you to be.

I ran recently in the cold, avoiding the shady spots because the temperature was much cooler there. I thought back to the summer and my conversation with God. He knew this time was coming but I didn't see it then. He knew that the shade wouldn't always be the best place for me.

God loves us enough to take us to different places—sometimes carrying us if necessary as our key verse says—always preparing us for what lies ahead. He will make sure we reach the place He has for us and that we are the people He wants us to be when we get there.

Dear Lord, help me to trust wherever You have me. I might think I know what's best for me, but I am not seeing what lies ahead the way You do. I want to submit to Your plans for me every day, in sunshine and shade. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:

Do You Know Him?

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Becoming a Woman of Influence (CD) by Marybeth Whalen

She Reads: Discovering Great Fiction Together (A division of Proverbs 31 Ministries  

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Application Steps: 
If weather permits, take a prayer walk today. When you walk under shade trees, thank God for the times He's provided coverage for you. When you walk under open skies, thank Him for the times He's allowed the sun to shine on you. Use the prayer time to reaffirm your complete trust in His plans.

Reflections: 
When I am feeling the heat or the cold in life do I tend to accept or question God's plan? Have I ever stopped to think about the fact that sometimes my environment is preparing me for a future I cannot see?

Power Verses:
Jonah 4:9a, "But God said to Jonah, ‘Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?'" (NIV) 

Psalm 28:9, "Save your people and bless your inheritance; be their shepherd and carry them forever." (NIV)

© 2011 by Marybeth Whalen. All rights reserved.

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