When I became a Christian, I became a new person in spirit. And ever since, my spirit yearns to shelter in the Father. The Psalmist refers to that place of shelter as the secret place of the Most High God, El Elyon. (Psalm 91:1) And when we dwell, actually reside, in that secret place, we find rest. Rest of mind – peace – assurance. Isn’t rest what we really want? I do.
Some places on this earth, even right here in Michigan, would make amazing secret places. They are wonderlands. Like the secret garden from Frances Hodges Burnett’s book by the same name, any one of these wonderlands could be made into a story titled The Secret Place. The Munising Falls in the middle of the Lake Superior shoreline of the Upper Peninsula is one of these secret places. I’ve been there a few times. You walk into a valley, as such, which is found within the woods, and you follow a stream, looking ahead, to a single waterfall, dropping 50 feet over a sandstone cliff. The trail crosses the stream on a quaint little footbridge and leads right up to the falls. You can walk behind the falls. If this site was not open to the public, this wonderland would be the perfect secret place.
Today, we found another secret place at the Presque Isle River. The river runs over 40 miles, through the Ottawa National Forest, into the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, and empties into Lake Superior, the last couple of miles being the most remarkable, beautiful cascade of waterfalls over red rock imaginable. Along the west side of these last miles is the most popular area of viewing for tourists, with several spaces for people to park and walk along the water’s edge. A boardwalk makes the hike along the ups and downs of the west side a bit easier.
A suspension bridge crosses over the river, just near its mouth, and many people cross this walking bridge to view the Great Lake from the east side. They walk a bit. But few venture up, up, up, the natural steps – the edges of granite – protruding from the edge of the cliff – or up the roots of hemlocks – either of which lead to the wonderland found high on the cliffs of the east riverside.
We ventured. And we discovered this wonderland along the Presque Isle River. A 100-foot cliff overlooks the river with all its cascading waterfalls, diffusing naturally processed air conditioned breeze into our presence high above. Old growth sugar maple, 400-year-old hemlocks, yellow birch, oak, and white pine dominate the surrounding forest. Even on this 84 degree day, the shade and river create a cool, soothing atmosphere. I don’t want to leave. This is the perfect secret place. I pause. I pray. I want this to be the secret place of The Most High. I want to dwell here and find the rest God promises, and because I am communing with the Father, I do find that rest, but it’s not truly because of this place.
The term secret place is found in one of my favorite chapters of the Bible: Psalm 91. In my limited thinking, I consider God’s secret place to be one like this at Presque Isle. I’m thinking there might be a place where I can literally and physically step into God’s presence. But actually, the secret place most often refers to the way our soul is in relationship with God. It is the place Jesus speaks of when he instructs us to go to “a room with the door shut” when we pray – a place of solitude with God – a place set aside for time alone with God. It is an intentional decision to spend time in the Word, praying and listening. God meets us there. It is in this secret place we discover Him as “our refuge and fortress, my God in whom I trust.” This secret place is also referred to as a shelter.
Charles Spurgeon, a renowned preacher of old, wrote about this first verse found in Psalm 91:
“The blessings here promised are not for all believers, but for those who live in close fellowship with God . . . all do not dwell in the most holy place; they run to it at times, and enjoy occasional approaches, but they do not habitually reside in the mysterious presence. Those who [do] . . . become possessors of rare and special benefits, which are missed by those who follow [from] afar.”
He refers to those believers who reside in God’s secret place – in His shelter – as “constant guests,” remaining under God’s protection.
Another verse in the Psalms tells us that in our days of trouble God will keep us safe in His secret place – He will hide us there and shelter us.
I have looked for the secret place.
I have yearned for the secret place.
And I have found the secret place.
I can’t stay on this west river’s edge, high upon the red rocks, refreshing in the coolness of the river below. I must leave. But my spirit never stops seeking the secret place of God. And the secret place is always there for me. I’m a constant guest. It’s always available – His shelter, His care, His companionship. It’s always available to you, too. You can dwell in that shelter – that secret place with God.
Further reading: Psalm 27:5; Psalm 91:1
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