Monday, March 31, 2014

Lessons from Hinds Feet - Walking in the Mist

Hannah Hurnard’s book Hinds’ Feet on High Places is one of my all-time favorite books.  Hannah Hurnard wrote a spiritual allegory about a woman named Much Afraid who accepts an invitation from The Shepherd to take a difficult journey to the High Places.  The Shepherd represents Jesus Christ.  The High Places represents a destination of spiritual growth and maturity, not heaven.  Much Afraid’s constant and faithful companions throughout her journey are Sorrow and Suffering.  Much Afraid has “fearing relatives” who miserably taunt her all throughout her journey and tempt her to give up and return to them.  Since 2004, I have read and re-read the story of Much Afraid on her journey to the High Places, and it has inspired and encouraged me every time.  I feel a kindred spirit with Hannah Hurnard because she also believed in God’s ultimate salvation of all mankind. 

This lesson is based on Chapter 12, titled "In the Mist"
(All quotations are from that chapter.)  
"At last the storm gradually died down, the clamor on the mountains ceased, and it was time to resume the journey.  However, the weather had broken completely, and though the storm itself was over, thick mist and cloud remained, shrouding everything on the heights." 
It seems to me that while the storms of life initially arrive and rattle and shake us to the core, the hardest of times are experienced immediately after the intensity of the storm has passed.  The storm comes and wreaks its havoc and shake us up for a short moment.  But subsequently, we must face the aftermath of the storm and pick up all the scattered pieces, usually while we are still feeling shock and confusion.  Facing the aftermath and picking up the pieces takes much more time than the storm took to create its effect.
"When they started, the mist was so thick that they could see only the trees on either side of the narrow path, and even they looked ghostly and unreal.  The rest of the forest was simply swallowed up and entirely lost to sight, veiled in a cold and clammy white curtain.  The ground was dreadfully muddy and slippery..." 
" there was nothing...just a trudge, trudge forward, day after day, able to see nothing except for white clinging mist which hung about the mountains without a gleam of sunshine breaking through." 
I’ve personally discovered that while we attempt to pick up the pieces and carry on with our life after the storms hit and go on their way, some of our “fearing relatives” Resentment, Bitterness, and Self-Pity call out to us:
Resentment calls out" might just as well know now that this is going to continue for no one knows how long.  Higher up the mountains the mist hangs thicker and thicker still.  That's all you can expect for the rest of the journey."  
Resentment says we shouldn’t hope for better days ahead or blessings in the future.  Resentment tells us we should question God's sovereignty over our lives.  Resentment tempts our human soul to lose faith in God, give up hope for brighter days ahead, and despair of life.
Bitterness calls out"You might at least be willing to go back a little way and look, instead of insisting on going on and on along what may prove to be a wrong path leading you round in circles." 
Bitterness tells us we've been led and brought the wrong way in our life journey and that the only way to make things right or better is to go back from where we came; to go back to our past while ignoring the present which leads us to the future.  Bitterness tempts us to believe that we can be happy walking backwards instead of persevering steadfastly forwards through the mist.
Self-Pity calls out"You poor little thing.  It is too bad that you have been put in the charge of such obstinate mule-like creatures [speaking of Much Afraid having to endure being accompanied by Sorrow and Suffering].  Just think of the time you are wasting, getting nowhere at all.  Trudge, trudge, day after day, nothing to show for it, and you ought to be getting up onto the High Places." 
Self-Pity tells us that enduring sorrow and suffering while also putting one foot in front of the other is only time wasted in our lives.  Self-Pity lies to us and tells us we shouldn't have to go through hardships and instead makes us focus on asking "Why me?".  Self-Pity deceives us into believing we deserve better than what we've gotten and that we are the only ones facing restoration hardships after the storms have come and gone.  Self-Pity wants us to feel sorry for ourselves, neglect the needs of others, and forget that every moment of our life has value and meaning for us and for others.

Listening to the voices of Resentment, Bitterness, and Self-Pity causes us to repeatedly stumble along our life journey. 
"Suffering doggedly led the way, and Sorrow just as doggedly was her rearguard, so that there was no possibility of turning back, but Much-Afraid found herself limping and slipping and stumbling far more often and badly than at any other stage of the journey.  It made her very disagreeable and difficult to deal with...Altogether it was a miserable time, and the mist, instead of clearing, seemed to get thicker and colder and drearier than ever." 
I have discovered that the more I resist and fight against the seasons of hardship in my life, the more miserable I feel and the more resentful and bitter I become.  The more I resist and refuse to accept the difficulties before me, the worse I feel emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.  As hard as this is to do, it is when I finally come to accept and embrace what I must face and walk through that it becomes easier to go through it, and I trip and stumble less.  I am only able to accept and embrace especially hard trials one moment at a time.  It is not something that I can just begin doing and do successfully until the trial has ended.  I have to constantly turn to God, cry out to Him, and let Him repeatedly remind me of His truths and of His presence.  I must focus on my Father God and my Lord Jesus Christ if I am to have any ability to accept and embrace the circumstances and to continue to stand firm and walk forward with hope, because my human fears keep coming back and taunting me, just like Much Afraid's "fearing relatives" do to her.
"At last, one afternoon, when the only word which at all described her progress is to say that she was slithering along the path, all muddy and wet and bedgraggled from constant slips she decided to sing...the mist was so thick and clammy that she was nearly stifled, and she felt she must do something to try to cheer herself and to drown the ghostly voices which kept whispering to her through the trees...'If I sing quite loudly,' she told herself, 'I shall not be able to hear what they [resentment, bitterness, and self-pity] say.'"
There have been times when I pray and pray, read the Scriptures, and journal until my hand hurts, and I still feel miserable.  Then comes along a song.  God knows what a difference the right song can make in my life!  The right song, at just the right time, has renewed my hope and faith and picked me up when I felt I didn't want to stand anymore.  It has reminded me that:

God is still in control,
whatever hardship I am currently experiencing will not be endless,
He hears my cries and knows my pain, and
because He has heard,
He has sent to me this song
to lift up my soul and give me new strength to face the next moment

He hand picks the songs for me and touches me and hugs me with them.  Through just the right song, I hear Him speak to me, and I am encouraged.

Here are three of such songs in my life.  Maybe you’ll find them as encouraging as I have.

Sovereign by Chris Tomlin

The Sun is Rising by Britt Nicole

Stand by Britt Nicole

The storms of life will come and go and so will the times of mist and uncertainty.  I rest assured that God does not come and go through the seasons of my life.  He is always present and forever faithful, even when our “fearing relatives” try to tell us otherwise.

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