“Come and let us return to the Lord, for he has torn, but he will heals us, he has stricken, but he will bind us up again.” Hosea 6:1
“Bread corn is bruised, but no one threshes it forever, only till it is ready to be made bread for others. This also cometh forth from the Lord of Hosts who is wonderful in counsel and excellent in working” (Isa 28:28,29).
The mist had cleared from the mountains and the sun was shining, and as a consequence the way seemed much more pleasant and easy than it had for a very long time. The path still led them along the side of the mountain rather than upward, but one day, on turning a corner, they found themselves looking down into a deep valley. To their surprise, their path actually plunged straight down the mountains toward it, exactly as at the beginning of the journey when Much-Afraid had been led down into Egypt.
All three halted and looked first at one another, then down into the valley and across to the other side. There the ascent was as steep and even higher than the Precipice of Injury and they saw that to go down and then ascend again would not only require an immense amount of strength and effort, but also take a very long time.
Much-Afraid stood and stared, and at that moment experienced the sharpest and keenest test which she had yet encountered on the journey. Was she to be turned aside once again, but in an even more terrible way than ever before? By now they had ascended far higher than ever before. Indeed, if only the path they were following would begin to ascend, they could not doubt that they would soon be at the snowline and approaching the real High Places, where no enemies could follow and where the healing streams flowed.
Now instead of that the path was leading them down into a valley as low as the Valley of Humiliation itself. All the height which they had gained after their long and toilsome journey must now be lost and they would have to begin all over again, just as though they had never made a start so long ago and endured so many difficulties and tests.
As she looked down into the depths of the valley the heart of Much-Afraid went numb. For the first time on the journey she actually asked herself if her relatives had not been right after all and if she ought not to have attempted to follow the Shepherd. How could one follow a person who asked so much, who demanded such impossible things, who took away everything? If she went down there, as far as getting to the High Places was concerned she must loose everything she had gained on the journey so far.*
Not long ago, I confessed some things to a very good friend of mine. Having known already the struggles I was going through, she told me that her husband had questioned once whether I would choose God over this, should I be made to choose. I’m surprised that they wondered. What else is there? What “choice” do I have, really?
During that awful moment or two it seemed to Much-Afraid that she was actually looking into an abyss of horror, into an existence in which there was no Shepherd to follow or to trust or to love – no Shepherd at all, nothing but her own horrible self. Ever after, it seemed that she had looked straight down into Hell. At the end of that moment Much-Afraid shrieked – there is no other word for it.
“Shepherd,” she shrieked, “Shepherd! Shepherd! Help me! Where are you? Don’t leave me!” Next instant she was clinging to him, trembling from head to foot, and sobbing over and over again, “You may do anything, Shepherd, you may ask anything – only don’t let me turn back. O my Lord, don’t let me leave you… Don’t let anything turn me back!” …
He lifted her up, supported her by his arm, and with his own hand wiped the tears from her cheeks, then said in his strong, cheery voice, “There is no question of your turning back, Much-Afraid. No one, not even your own shrinking heart, can pluck you out of my hand.”*
“Whither thou goest I will go; and where thou diest, I will die.” (Ruth 1:17)
Whatever You ask of me, I will do.
Whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus Christ my Lord, for whose sake I will loose all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Jesus and be found in him. I will know Jesus and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings. I will become like him in his death, and attain the resurrection from the dead.
Upon the hill of Calvary
He came from heaven’s throne
Our fallenness and mercy meet
Where blood and water flow
What grace divine
That Christ would bear the weight
Our proof is scarred
On hands that bled
That we were worth every nail
All the praise and glory to God
We sing hallelujah
For the King has carried the cross
He is risen from the grave
Beyond the tomb to holy skies
He rose in victory
And bridged for us
The great divide
His life is our liberty
It’s Your love
It’s Your love that has saved me
It’s Your blood
It’s Your blood that has claimed me
*Hinds Feet on High Places, Hannah Hurnard