Thursday, October 2, 2008

Necessary Companions

Sometimes it seems that everything is very positive and headed in a good direction. There is a joy in sensing that things are coming together without any hitches. Of course, when such is your thought, it also seems that that is the time when "hitches" make their presence known. I have found in such times that one can either allow this to depress one's spirit or give reason to express one's faith and trust in He Who allows the "hitches" to work their worst. The latter's result is often clearer vision and recognition that the "hitch" was nothing more than a bump in the road, with not even a detour required to proceed.

"What has brought this rambling on?" You may ask. Well, the present state of economics and its impact on retirement issues and new mortgage needs is the present "hitch" in question. Planning for year's end and retirement has been a process that we've tried to prepare for, for several months, and just at the point when we began looking for a retirement home and begin making the necessary applications, the nation's financial crisis begins to make its debut. With it the seesawing of emotions and questions of "rightness" of timing begin their attack. "Should we?" "Shouldn't we?" is the constant cycle of question that comes. At times one feels with Paul what he must have felt with the Church at Corinth. He records in II Corinthians 4:8-9, "...we are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair, persecuted, but not forsaken, case down, but not destroyed."

Several years ago, during the interim time I was waiting on our missionary status to allow us to continue to Asia, I was pastoring a church. It was winter and a snow storm was in the forecast, threatening to "snow" us in, so when I left to go home I looked on my sparsely filled bookshelf for something to read. I pulled down a book called, "Hinds' Feet on High Places" by Hannah Hurnard, and hurriedly sped home to beat the storm. When I later picked it up and began to read, I was immediately captured by the plight of the heroine named Much Afraid, a cripple with a twisted smile, whose path of struggle was to climb to the heights where "perfect love casteth out fear". In this journey, the Good Shepherd, her employer, gave her two companions to help her on the journey. Their names were Sorrow and Suffering, and when she first reached forth her hands for their aid, it was not a pleasant encounter, but she persisted at the Shepherd's bidding and promise that they would be the very best companions she could have. Eventually, through her journey of great trial she arrived with her companions. In the midst of her pilgrimage she was changed and took on a new name, Grace and Glory, and her companions, too, were changed to Joy and Peace. Such was the miracle of the path of faith and trust in the Lord's direction. The Scripture given that sets the stage for the title and story is Habakkuk 2:19, "The Lord God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds' feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places." (By the by, I heartily recommend the book and its sequel, Mountains of Spices, but read them in order!)

As I sit here reflecting once again upon the lessons of the book and my own set of circumstances, I am once again encouraged to look with renewed eyes of faith and trust in the Lord's direction for us, and His provisions for our needs, regardless of the world's present condition and its up-and-down "wall street" mentality. Using wisdom in dealing with present issues is one thing, to allow the fear of the world to control my way is quite another. I have noted some wise counsel from a myriad of other Christian saints. One such is from Mrs. Charles Cowman in Streams in the Desert, "there is no high hill but beside some deep valley." Indeed, there would be no mountains if there were no valley! (On reflection, as I read through this later myself, it occurs to me that the measure of the height of a mountain depends on how deep the valley must be! The journey to climb to higher realms with joy and peace may require a more deep and sacrificial plunge with sorrow and suffering than one has known. Not to frighten, but only to prepare one to make a commitment than has the potential of great cost. But what is that in comparison to the great "heights" gained through such sacrifice. Is that not what the Savior did in the ultimate gift of Himself for us?)

I started writing the following poem during devotions in 1993 and finding it anew today, I just finished it. May you be encouraged by these words and it today.

Sorrow’s beauty is like the dark night,
Shining like silver in pools of moonlight.
Her voice like the call of nightingale sweet,
With tender compassion, drawn easy to weep.

Joy has the beauty of radiant morn,
That shines with glad laughter, with each day that’s born.
Hair that is brushed by the kiss of sunshine.
His voice soaring upward like the lark when it’s fine.

Can these two ever meet, one of night, one of day?
Though they long to be joined, most claim there’s no way,
No way that this beauty of sorrow can wed
The joy that seems bound to the day that’s ahead.

But look to the One Who made their realms meet
On a cross where the dusk would kiss His Son’s feet.
Then, too, at the tomb as dusk held dawn’s hand,
There Sorrow and Joy were made one in God’s plan.

So, as lives are lived ‘mid darkness and light,
They each have a purpose to strengthen us right.
Sorrow is bitter, but it’s dying brings God’s grace,
And Joy bears the sweet fruit that brightens God’s face.

1 comment:

Amber said...

Oh my goodness. I still have my copy of Hinds Feet that you gave me before I went to college. I read it every year or so. It's about time for me to get it out again. That has to be one of my most favorite books. I love it so much. And every time I read it...I think of you!

Love ya.