Sorrow & Suffering

Hinds’ Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard is a GREAT book. I read it once as a kid and more recently I’ve read it several times with my staff in the last four years. It’s written as an allegory, so it’s an easy read. Here are a couple excerpts from the preface that always speak to my heart.

The Song of Songs expresses the desire implanted in every human heart, to be reunited with God himself, and to know perfect and unbroken union with him. He has made us for himself, and our hearts can never know rest and perfect satisfaction until they find it in him.

The only way is by learning to accept, day by day, the actual conditions and tests permitted by God, by a continually repeated laying down of our own will and acceptance of his as it is presented to us in the form of the people with whom we have to live and work, and in the things which happen to us. Every acceptance of his will becomes an alter of sacrifice, and every such surrender and abandonment of ourselves to his will is a means of furthering us on the way to the High Places to which he desires to bring every child of his while they are still living on earth.

The lessons of accepting and triumphing over evil, of becoming acquainted with grief, and pain, and ultimately, of finding them transformed into something incomparably precious; of learning through constant glad surrender to know the Lord of Love himself in a new way and to experience unbroken union with him-these are the lessons of the allegory in this book. The High Places and the hinds’ feet do not refer to heavenly places after death, but are meant to be the glorious experiences of God’s children here and now-if they will follow the path he chooses for them.

Within the first 70 pages, the main character, Much-Afraid, starts on her journey to the High Places. The Shepherd provides her with companions to help her along her journey.

“That is why I have most carefully chosen for you two of the very best and strongest guides.” he tells her. “Here are the two guides which I promised,” said the Shepherd quietly. “From now on until you are over the steep and difficult places, they will be your companions and helpers.”…”They are good teachers; indeed, I have few better. As for their names…This,” said he, motioning towards the first of the silent figures, “is named Sorrow. And the other is her twin sister, Suffering.”

What?? I can still remember echoing Much-Afraid’s reaction. Of all the people who he could have chosen as companions for her, he chose Sorrow and Suffering. I’d prefer Happiness and Peace, please!

Much-Afraid, stepped forward, looking at the two [companions], and said with a courage which she had never felt before, “I will go with you. Please lead the way,” for even then she could not bring herself to put out her hands to grasp theirs.

Um, no kidding. The thought of embracing Sorrow and Suffering is not something I would want to do either.

From the very beginning the way up the mountains proved to be steeper than anything Much-Afraid had supposed herself capable of tackling, and it was not very long before she was forced to seek the help of her companions. Each time she shrinkingly took hold of the hand of either Sorrow or Suffering a pang went through her, but once their hands were grasped she found they had amazing strength, and seemed able to pull and even lift her upwards and over places which she would have considered utterly impossible to reach.

As I read this section again, preparing for time with my staff, I was struck with the thought of “who are my companions on my life journey?” If The Shepherd saw fit to provide Much-Afraid with helpful and trusted companions, why would my Father not do the same? Companions that point me to Him, help me through the difficult seasons of life, and ultimately show me His love!

This morning I came across some Scripture verses that I feel like emphasis this.

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. James 1:12

Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. James 5:11

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 1 Peter 5:10

1 Peter 5:10 strongly resonated with me! The hope that this verse brings! Regardless of who my companions are, God will get the glory and He will sustain me!

As I sat and pondered who my companions are, the first one came quickly to mind. Loneliness. The second one was a little harder. I’m actually still thinking and praying through it, but it seems to be Joyful Sorrow. Sorrow stuck out to me, but the feeling of joy quickly followed it. Not joy in the sorrow, but rather the joy that came on the other side of the sorrow. Joy was experienced in how I saw my Father show up in the midst of the sorrow and how I am still seeing Him show up.

This seemed to shift my perspective a little. Instead of resisting my companions (Loneliness and Joyful Sorrow), maybe like Much-Afraid, I should embrace them and tightly hold onto their hands. I should allow them to help me traverse the hard seasons and point me to Him. For as 1 Peter 5:10 says, the Lord has promised to “restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish” me.

Whose hands do you need to grasp today?