We’ve had several weeks of typical Tucson summer heat, where the temps reach 105 or more and we stay indoors as much as possible. The extreme heat and lack of water stresses the wildlife, and I’ve noticed especially the lack of activity among the birds, who do their best to find shade and slow down.
Today it’s a rare cloudy day and the birds are out in abundance. They’re singing again and flocking to my feeders. The hummingbirds, normally combative, seem more relaxed. The desert seems to be letting out a sigh of relief in this momentary respite from the heat of midsummer.
With sufficient pressure, a granite boulder will crack and crumble. Likewise, you and me. We need respite from the heat. We need respite from life. I take shelter inside my air-conditioned house when the sun is at its most oppressive, but how do I find shelter from the physical and mental and emotional stresses that relentlessly squeeze me until I feel I can’t breathe?
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will 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 (NIV)
Rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I imagine the sun beating down in a shadeless place. Suddenly a heavy cloud appears, moves, covers me, blocks the sun’s heat, and I am saved.
This sort of respite is not that of magically turning summer into spring, or transporting me from Tucson to a cool, Canadian lakeside. God’s respite is a cloud that covers me in the midst of the desert, a fortress that appears in the place where I am being pursued by relentless enemies. God’s respite brings me a momentary place of shade so that I can gather my strength for the inevitable return of the sun.
I find respite in his Word, and I read it often. I find respite in prayer, and I call out to God frequently during the day. I find respite in the comforting words of friends who themselves have endured times of great stress and have come through to the other side, with God’s help.
I know the monsoonal rains will soon cool the desert and give respite to all of us who live here. I know that fall will surely come and the temperatures will become sane again.
What we don’t know, though, is where the future leads in the plotline of our lives, and how the people we love will respond to the stresses of the summer heat, or the even greater challenges of life itself. This side of heaven there is no permanent respite from life’s habit of throwing up one difficulty after another.
But there is shelter under the shadow of the Almighty. And that shelter keeps us going.