Things That Cannot Be Shaken
By Hannah Whitall Smith
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“All of creation will be shaken and removed, so that only unshakable things will remain.”1
We will all acknowledge, I think, that if our souls are to rest in peace and comfort, it can only be on unshakable foundations.
There may be times when our faith seems to us as settled and immovable as the everlasting mountains. Then comes an upheaval, and all our foundations are shaken and thrown down, and we are ready to despair and to question whether we can be Christians at all. Sometimes it is an upheaval in our outward circumstances, and sometimes it is in our inward experience. If people have rested on their faithful service, the Lord is often obliged to take away all power for work or else all opportunity in order that the soul may be driven from its false resting place and forced to rest in the Lord alone.
Sometimes the dependence is upon good feelings or pious emotions, and the soul has to be deprived of these before it can learn to depend only upon God.
Or it may be that the upheaval comes in our outward circumstances. Everything may seem so firmly established that no dream of disaster disturbs us. Our reputation is assured, our work has prospered, our efforts have all been successful beyond our hopes, and our soul is at ease, and the need for God is in danger of becoming far off and vague. And then the Lord is obliged to put an end to it all, and our prosperity crumbles around us like a house built on sands, and we are tempted to think He is angry with us. But in very truth it is not anger, but tenderest love. His love compels Him to take away the outward prosperity that is keeping our souls from entering into the interior spiritual kingdom for which we long.
Paul declared that he counted all things but loss that he might win Christ; and when we learn to say the same, the peace and joy that the Gospel promises become our permanent possession.
The old mystics used to teach what they called “detachment,” meaning the cutting loose of the soul from all that could hold it back from God. This need for “detachment” is the secret of many of our “shakings.” We cannot follow the Lord fully so long as we are tied fast to anything else, any more than a boat can sail out into the boundless ocean so long as it is tied fast to the shore.
If we could reach the “city which hath sure and steadfast foundations,” we must go out like Abraham from all other cities, and must be detached from every earthly tie. Everything in Abraham’s life that could be shaken was shaken. We, like Abraham, are looking for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. The psalmist had learned this, and after all the shakings, he cried: “My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation: he is my defense; I shall not be moved. In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength and my refuge is in God.”
At last God was everything to him; and then he found that God was enough.
And it is the same with us. When everything in our lives and experience is shaken that can be shaken, and only that which cannot be shaken remains, we are brought to see that God only is our rock and our foundation, and we learn to have our expectation from Him alone.
“Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof ... God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved. God shall help her, and that right early.”
“Shall not be moved”—what an inspiring declaration! Can it be possible that we, who are so easily moved by the things of earth, can arrive at a place where nothing can disturb our calm? Yes, it is possible; and the apostle Paul knew it. When he was on his way to Jerusalem, where he foresaw that “bonds and afflictions” awaited him, he could say triumphantly, “But none of these things move me.”
Everything in Paul’s life and experience that could be shaken had been shaken, and he no longer counted his life, or any of life’s possessions, dear unto him. And we, if we will but let God have His way with us, may come to the same place so that neither the fret and fear of the little things of life, nor its great and heavy trials, can have power to move us from the peace that passeth all understanding. We will have learned to rest only on God.
Adapted from The God of All Comfort, by Hannah Whitall Smith (1832–1911).
Published on Anchor May 2014. Read by Carol Andrews.
1 Hebrews 12:27 NLT.