May 6th Devotion

Lean In
by Annie Yorty

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8a NASB1995).

Jake’s massive weight almost knocked me over. The gentle giant, an English mastiff, pressed hard against my legs as I stood talking with his owner. “He’s really taken a shine to you,” she remarked as I stumbled back, trying to counterbalance the two-hundred-plus pounds pushing against me.

I’ve noticed the same interesting behavior in my furry beast labradoodle. When I rise in the morning, Misha prances to my side, pressing the length of his body against my legs dangling off the bed. As I sit at the table for lunch, he sidles up, inclining his long warm body against my thigh. If I’m standing at the front door chatting with visitors, he leans in hard against my hip. Thankfully, Misha weighs only fifty pounds.

Comfortable with the contact, Misha simply leans, looking ahead, waiting. If I fail to notice him within a moment or two, he twists his head around to implore me with round poodle eyes charmingly obscured by bushy black eyebrows. Inevitably, my hand will drift down to him, tousling soft floppy ears or scratching his skinny poodle rump. His satisfaction palpable, Misha leans in harder.

Canine experts say dogs press against their humans for a variety of reasons. Anxious dogs come close to feel more protected and secure. Playful pups lean in to reciprocate love when receiving treats or attention. But most dogs simply crave human nearness. They revel in the touch of their master. I believe we may have something to learn from our furry friends.

Are we most like the anxious dog, waiting until we’re at our wit’s end before we turn to God? Do we try to withstand the stress of life by reliance on ourselves? Eventually, the pressure drives us to lean into Him for help, security, and provision. Of course, we can and should sprint to God during times of struggle the moment we realize our need. The Bible is clear that God stands ready to supply anyone who cries out to Him. “He gives strength to the weary, and to the one who lacks might He increases power” (Isaiah 40:29 NASB1995).

Perhaps like the second dog, we only notice God when He gives a blessing. We flit through our days, distracted by busyness, not thinking much about God until He captures our attention with a “treat.” Finally, sensing His care, we move back in to offer thanks and express love to Him.

But shouldn’t we be more like Misha, not waiting for a crisis to force us, or enticement to draw us, to our Master’s side? In Proverbs, God warns us what not to lean on—our own understanding. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6 NASB). Leaning on ourselves proves completely unreliable, throwing us constantly off balance.

This verse also instructs us to lean on God in all our ways. Every day. Constantly. Not just when we run dry and need something. What if we pressed into God morning, noon, and night, sticking close to His side whenever He moves? So close that God’s presence, His touch, is unmistakable. Perhaps if we stayed near perpetually, we wouldn’t get so worn out and discouraged by the cares of life.

There’s something else we can learn from Misha. He doesn’t know the meaning of shame. Just a minute after gulping down one of my socks for the umpteenth time, he butts into my irritation with a cold, wet nose seeking my unconditional love. But when we have strayed into sin, we often distance ourselves from God. We wonder if He will forgive us, if He will still love us.

Like Misha, I crave my Master’s presence, His touch. When I draw near to Him, I feel His guidance, His strength, His love. His hand upon me, I am secure. God’s simple command, given through Jesus to His first disciples, is “Follow Me” (Matthew 4:19 NASB). Stick close. Lean in. He is all we need.
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