Hinds’ Feet on High Places, my favorite children’s story, is an allegory about Much Afraid (someone inside each one of us) and the Shepherd—Jesus! Much Afraid lives in the valley with her relatives Gloomy, Spiteful, and Craven Fear. Oftentimes Much Afraid makes the mistake of allowing them into her cottage, causing her to feel weaker and more helpless.
The Shepherd encourages Much Afraid to leave the Valley and climb the steep mountain to the High Places. The air is clean there, and the healing streams wash away anything unlovely. No fears of any kind are there because ‘perfect love gets rid of fear.’
“I will help you when you call,” the Shepherd promises. “And as you begin your journey, I will give you my very best and strongest helpers, Sorrow and Suffering. They are two of the best teachers I have.”
Much Afraid burst into tears. She begged for Joy and Peace to go with her. It seemed she was faced with the impossible.
Do you know someone who loves the Lord, but is experiencing sorrow and suffering? The journey seems ominous.
Every day I hear sad news. Cancer and suicide snatch the lives of loved ones. A teen daughter is pregnant; a spouse says, “I don’t love you anymore and leaves.” A child chooses a rebellious lifestyle of drugs, alcohol or sexual sin. Unemployment drains finances, and doctors diagnose another serious illness.
Nothing tries our faith like sorrow and suffering. We must beware that the enemy sets out to destroy our faith. Why? Because if we don’t have faith, we don’t have a leg to stand on. Faith is the very weapon we possess to extinguish every flaming arrow of the evil one. (Ephesians 6: 16) “Without faith it is impossible to please God!” (Hebrews 11:6)
Oswald Chambers, author of My Utmost for His Highest, offers this insight. “Faith must be tested because it can only become your intimate possession through conflict.”
To understand this truth, it helps to refresh our understanding of intimacy.
Intimacy develops when people share personal feelings and experiences with each other.
They become intertwined by exchanging questions and answers and knowledge of secrets and private longings. Over time, better understanding develops and a deeper, richer level of trust grows.
Sorrow and sadness trigger difficult questions I ordinarily wouldn't ask. “Is God really who He says He is?” “Is God really what He says He is like?” “Can God do what He says He can do?” My simplehearted questions put an unusual amount of pressure on my spiritual muscles. They thrust me into Scripture, searching for truth. I agonize in prayer with cries of emotional longings and unmet desires. My faith is tried.
That’s when the Shepherd quickly rises to show love and compassions. They are new every morning! They never fail. (Lamentations 3:22, 23) Like a mother, never ignoring her nursing baby, the Shepherd never ignores me. (Isaiah 49:15). Sorrow and suffering is accomplishing its purpose, binding me closer to the good Shepherd.
Then the Shepherd asks, “Will you trust Me? Even in this?”
Pastor Rick Warren answered that question recently after losing his 27-year-old son to suicide. “I don’t have to know why everything happens since I know God is good, He loves me, and life on earth isn't the whole story.”
The Shepherd asked Much Afraid, “Will you go with Me or do you want to go back to the Valley?
Fearful to go with Sorrow and Suffering, she looked at the Shepherd and suddenly realized how very much she loved Him. Even if He asked the impossible, she would do it.
The Shepherd calls us onto the pathway of sorrow and suffering to test our faith, to bind us closer to Him. If we follow Him we reap faith, refined and more costly than gold, which becomes our most intimate possession.
Is sorrow and suffering your companions? Will you choose to trust your Shepherd and still believe He is good and still loves you?