The Everlasting Arms
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The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.—Deuteronomy 33:27
When I was a child we played a game in which we would each stand straight as a board and then try to fall backward into the strong arms of an adult who was waiting to catch us. It’s strange, but no matter how many times I’d seen it done or tried to do it myself, it was still difficult to keep from bending my knees or doing something else at the last split second to try to break my fall. Not chickening out took a certain “letting go” that went contrary to my natural reasoning and reflexes. It took complete trust in the one who was catching me.
In the Christian life we often use the expression “leaning on Jesus,” or, as the old hymn goes, “leaning on the everlasting arms.” The picture is of one leaning on Jesus for support while passing through life’s difficulties. I’ve done a lot of “leaning” in my life. And I have found Jesus to be strong and stable, full of strength and comfort. I leaned hard on Him through several long and difficult years when my husband battled a life-threatening illness. I leaned harder still when I walked the difficult road of cancer myself. But there was never a time that He wasn’t there to lean on. Even when the road was too difficult for me, He lifted me up and carried me.
There recently came another time in my life so difficult that it left me in despair. The night had closed so dark around me that I couldn’t see Jesus or feel His presence. I knew He was there, somewhere, but why was He now distant from me? I pictured myself reaching out, grasping at air, searching for His love and strength. Then, in answer to my deepest prayer, I heard His tender voice tell me, “The reason you haven’t been able to see or reach Me is that I’m not in front of you. I’m right behind you. My strong arms are around you, holding you from behind. All you have to do is lay your head back on My shoulder and rest. Don’t reach. Don’t struggle. Don’t try so hard to find My presence. Just lean back and rest in My everlasting arms.”
The peace that filled my heart was so complete that it entered every fiber of my being. During the difficult months that followed, I leaned on Jesus like never before. It’s hard to explain, but it became a different type of leaning, somehow more complete.
Then my circumstances became more difficult still. I developed a chronic, debilitating condition, and at times the pain took its toll. It was during this low time, when I had no strength of my own, that I heard Jesus’ gentle voice again, telling me, “Fall back! Just trust Me completely and fall back into My arms—like the game you played as a child.”
The experience seemed very real as it played out in slow motion in my mind. I felt myself standing in the middle of a blustery storm, atop a mountain of woes. I spread my arms wide open, leaned back, and fell—total abandonment, total surrender, total trust. Slowly I fell out of the realm of trouble and storm and into Jesus! I felt the soft landing envelop me with love. I found myself floating in a beautiful, dark stillness, dotted by tiny stars. I would call it space, but this place was not empty. It was alive, and the very nature of it filled me with courage and faith.
I felt it lift me up, up, up, high above the mountains. I felt the fresh, cool wind blow in my face. Riding on the wings of the wind, I was flying! I thought of the verse, “Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles.”1 I felt joy return to me, and my spirit receive new strength. It was refreshing and exhilarating!
Then I heard His voice speak again. “This is your place of freedom. When your body is held captive on a bed of suffering, let your spirit fly. Just fall. Fall on Me. Let yourself go and fall.”
Suddenly leaning took on a whole new meaning. In falling I learned to completely let go and fall—not onto but into the everlasting arms. What a wonderful experience!
If you’re tempted to think that these are just the foolish daydreams of a sick woman, think again. Science with all its knowledge and experience hasn’t come up with any pills for true inner peace that transcends any circumstances. There is no magic potion for a soul lost in hopelessness, no tonic for a spirit crushed under the weight of an unbearable burden.
I have been there, and I have found that peace. Though my outward condition remains unchanged, inwardly I have been healed—healed of an inner pain more difficult to bear than pain itself. I am free!—Misty Kay
Arms of Jesus, fold me closer
To Thy strong and loving breast,
Till my spirit on Thy bosom
Finds its everlasting rest.
And when time’s last sands are sinking,
Shield my heart from all alarms,
Softly whispering, “Underneath thee,
Are the everlasting arms.”
—A. B. Simpson
The Lord shall be thy confidence, and shall keep thy foot from being taken.
Surely the wrath of man shall praise Thee: the remainder of wrath shalt Thou restrain. I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in His Word do I hope. My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning. I sought the Lord, and He heard me and delivered me from all my fears.
The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. ... Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?—Daily Light
Can we not learn, like tired children, to fall into the everlasting arms and rest, not in what we know, but in whom we trust?—Charles Haddon Spurgeon
(Prayer:) Under the shade of Your leafy branches I find cool protection and rest. Thank You, Lord, for the rest You give me in the midst of the struggle. Thank You for the peace You give me in the midst of the daily hustle and bustle. Thank You for sheltering me under Your leaves at the hottest time of the day, when the sun is most intense and exhausting.
Thank You, Lord, that I can regain strength by resting in You. You’ve told me to come to You when I’m weary and heavy laden, and You will give me rest. When I can’t go on, I just lie down and have a nap in Your shade. Then when I wake up, I am full of life and energy and ready to resume my tasks.
There’s nothing like resting in You, Lord. There’s nothing like committing my tasks to You so You can help me carry through on them successfully. If it were not for You, my back would break. It’s not humanly possible to carry the weights, but Your everlasting arms help me hold them.
When I cast my burdens on You, You are so big and strong that You can carry them and not even feel them—and then You carry me as well.
Published on Anchor May 2019. Read by Jason Lawrence. Music by John Listen.
1 Isaiah 40:31.