Friday, March 27, 2015

Sorrow, Suffering and the Shepherd

This season of our lives has been one mingled with joy and sorrow. When winter's chill was deeply settled in, it forced me to be still (wrapped up in a blanket!) and truly think about all the joy that God has poured into my life. Specifically, with our newest arrival, Lily Eden. She brought a sweet peace and happiness into our home that I never knew was lacking!

But many times, joy goes hand-in-hand with sorrow. Recently, we discovered that my Momma has breast cancer. Cancer is never something the heart takes lightly and it has rattled us and scared us to the core. But - and I can only attribute this to the promises of God - peace has abounded. I honestly can't put into words the confidence that we have had in the hope of Jesus. I know that doesn't necessarily mean she will be completely or miraculously healed. But just as I know that winds howl and waves crash, I also know that these waves are still calmed by the same Voice who rebuked them 2,000 years ago. And that brings me peace.

I've recently opened up my favorite book - Hind's Feet on High Places - to read again through this trial and one portion in particular has given me such strength and calmness of spirit. If you are unfamiliar with the book's story, it's about a young girl named Much-Afraid who longs to leave the Valley of Humiliation and join the great Shepherd on the high places. Along her journey, she encounters Pride, she escapes Craven Fear, and she endures the shores of Loneliness. The Shepherd has promised to always be just a whisper away - even when she cannot see Him at all. At the beginning of the long, hard journey, she is given two companions - Sorrow and Suffering. Here is an excerpt from the book:

"I can't go with them," she gasped. "I can't! I can't! O my Lord Shepherd, why do you do this to me? How can I travel in their company? It is more than I can bear. You tell me that the mountain way itself is so steep and difficult that I cannot climb it alone. Then why, oh why, must you make Sorrow and Suffering my companions? Couldn't you have given me Joy and Peace to go with me, to strengthen me and encourage me and help me on the difficult way? I never thought you would do this to me!" And she burst into tears. 
A strange look passed over the Shepherd's face as he listened to this outburst, then looking at the veiled figures as he spoke, he answered very gently, "Joy and Peace. Are those the companions you would choose for yourself? You remember your promise, to accept the helpers that I would give, because you believed that I would choose the very best possible guides for you. Will you still trust me, Much-Afraid? Will you go with them, or do you wish to turn back to the Valley, and to all your Fearing relatives, to Craven Fear himself? 
Much-Afraid shuddered. The choice seemed terrible. Fear she knew only too well, but Sorrow and Suffering had always seemed to her the two most terrifying things which she could encounter. How could she go with them and abandon herself to their power and control? It was impossible. Then she looked at the Shepherd and suddenly she knew she could not doubt him, could not possibly turn back from following him; that if she were unfit and unable to love anyone else in the world, yet in her trembling, miserable little heart, she did love him. Even if he asked the impossible, she could not refuse. 
She looked at him piteously, then said, "Do I wish to turn back? O Shepherd, to whom should I go? In all the world I have no one but you. Help me to follow you, even though it seems impossible. Help me to trust you as much as I long to love you." 
As he heard these words the Shepherd suddenly lifted his head and laughed - a laugh full of exultation and triumph and delight.... Then he added, "Fear not, Much-Afraid, only believe. I promise that you shall not be put to shame. Go with Sorrow and Suffering, and if you cannot welcome them now, when you come to the difficult places where you cannot manage alone, put your hands in theirs confidently and they will take you exactly where I want you to go." 
Much-Afraid stood quite still, looking up into his face, which now had such a happy, exultant look, the look of one who above all things else delights in saving and delivering...
"Others have gone this way before me," she thought., "and they could even sing about it afterwards. Will he who is so strong and gentle be less faithful and gracious to me, weak and cowardly though I am, when it is so obvious that the thing he delights in most of all is to deliver his followers from all their fears and to take them to the High Places?" 

Each time I read this, I can't help but love Jesus more. He hears my heart when I cannot speak. He's not overwhelmed by me or my fears. He's not turned off by my neediness. He doesn't get exasperated by my crying over things that are nothing more than a mosquito bite in His eyes. He's just there, gently calling me higher, even through mist, loneliness, howling storms, or my own human cripplings. 

There is so much freedom in that. So much peace.

I ask for your prayers for my family - especially my sweet Momma. The waves and winds still know the Voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.


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