Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Divine Roadblocks

Hannah Hurnard's allegory Hinds Feet on High Places, tells of the journey of Much Afraid from the Valley of Humiliation to the High Places.  One would think this is just a straight shot up the mountain to the high places, but as it turns out, she doesn't have the proper "feet" to climb the crags and cliffs.  It is along the varied path, with all its twists and turns, ups and downs, that her two companions, Sorrow and Suffering, lead her and she develops her hinds' feet on which to leap through the High Places.

Much Afraid's journey takes her through the Desert, to the Shores of Loneliness, into the Forest of Danger and Tribulation and through the Mist.  And then, instead of ascending toward the High Places, Sorrow and Suffering lead her down into the Valley of Loss.  It is there she almost abandons the Chief Shepherd's path for her own path.  Faced with the decision to abandon His love, she becomes more terrified thinking of being without His love, than continuing on His crooked path.

At the Place of Annointing, Much Afraid finally surrenders to the Chief Shepherd, laying down her life, and trusting Him to carry her up the mountain.  At the mountaintop the Shepherd reveals that He is the King of the Kingdom of Love in the High Places.  She still endures many more trials, tempted again to leave the path, but finally awakes in the High Places with her new hinds' feet with which she can leap up the steep crags.  

In the High Places the King gives Much Afraid the new name Grace and Glory and gives her a crown made from the common stones she collected along the way that are now turned to jewels.  Finally, He introduces her new companions Joy and Peace.

Based on the scripture, "The Sovereign Lord is my strength he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights," Habakkuk 3:19, Hinds' Feet on High Places is
about "crucifying your own will for that of your Lord. Every acceptance of His will is an altar of sacrifice that helps us to progress and mature in our walk with Him."  (From the blog Seeking First His Kingdom.)  What if Much Afraid had abandoned the rocky path?  Where would she have ended up?  Certainly not in the High Places, certainly not with a new name and new companions!  Not only did she not abandon the path, she gained a more beautiful life and glorious existence than she could ever ask for or imagine!

Just like Much Afraid's path, our paths never go the direction we think they will when we start.  And our companions also aren't what we expected.  Hence my life verse being, "Who can make straight God has made crooked?" Ecc. 7:13.  So what do we do when we come to a roadblock that blocks us from continuing in the direction we want to travel?  The path we have put all our energies into traveling?  

Roadblocks come in many shapes and sizes.  They come in the form of any manner of loss and change, injury and disease, tragedy or death; a challenging person, a broken machine, or dead end.  A mere cold or flu, seemingly unlife-altering, can be a roadblock.  Even an accident on the freeway that thwarts our plan is a roadblock, literally.  Whatever the shape or size of our roadblock, it causes us to pause.  Sometimes for long periods of time.   This is a very uncomfortable period of time.  This is not something we planned.  What do we do with it?

Horatius Bonar in his book Night of Weeping--When God's Children Suffer says, "Oftentimes nothing but adversity will do for us. 'I spake unto thee in thy prosperity; but thou saidst, I will not hear.  This hath been thy manner from thy youth, that thou obeyedst not my voice' (Jer. 22:21).  We need to be turned out of a home on earth that we may seek a home in Heaven.  Earth's music is too seducing and takes away our relish for the new song.  God must either hush it or take us apart into a desert place that we may no longer be led captive by it but may have our ear open only to the heavenly melody."

My first instinct when I hit a roadblock, after looking at it in wonderment for awhile, is to how conquer it.  I begin putting all my energies into remedying this situation, coming up with a plan of action and scaling the mountain before me so I can continue along the path I've always traveled--to continue with my life as it was before this mountain.  Do I even consider God's great mercy in placing this mountain, this roadblock, in my path?  Do I consider that there may be another path to take?  Do I consider whether this is actually where the path takes a turn, rather than straight ahead over this mountain?  

Would I continue trying to scale this mountain to the other side if I knew there lay a cesspool on the other side, or a bed of thorns, or a cliff, or even a lake of fire?  Pausing before this roadblock to consider God's purpose is the hardest discipline we encounter.  Because as Jeremiah said (paraphrased) "Disobedience has been your pattern your whole life."  Why?  Because Adam and Eve mistrusted God, leaving His path for something they desired more than Him.  Their pride in believing in themselves rather than God, put us all on the path of sin and misery.  Thus is the estate of mankind.

God graciously puts these roadblocks on our path to direct us to Him.  The goal is not to conquer the roadblock to get back to life as usual.  The goal is to seek God for wisdom in where that roadblock is leading us.  It could be, as is often the case for me, that the roadblock, the simple ones that slow me down for a few minutes or days, cause me to search my heart, with God's illumination, and let Him shed light on the sins that so easily ensnare me.  Only then, once He's revealed them, can I repent and turn from the sinful path onto the Chief Shepherd's path.

And of course, the big roadblocks, the life-altering roadblocks, are God's means of mercy to stop us cold, to take us to the desert, away from the world's seductive music, and to play for us a new song.  Psalm 40 begins, " I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. 2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. 3 He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.  Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in him."

Oh Dear Ones!  He doesn't want us to just continue playing our song, He wants to give us a NEW SONG!  He wants us to not just set our idols aside but to ABHOR them.  To say, "Away with you [idols]!" Isa. 30:22To be joyful in God our Savior and walk in His ways.  We can't do this just going our way--our way is sin and misery unless God intervenes.  Praise be to God for His mountains, His roadblocks, that lead us to His path.

As believers, we are on His path.  As believers, we will never leave His path, He will keep us on it, just as He kept Much Afraid on her path to the High Places.  She couldn't see the way and she was confused about her traveling companions.  But the Chief Shepherd led her to the roadblocks and down the crooked path through the darkness to show His unfailing love and faithfulness and cause His love to grow in her heart.  He led her to the High Places gave her a new name and new companions, Joy and Peace.

Even if God's purpose is for us to scale the mountain, and continue on the current path, oh, may we not despise those trials that come, but through perseverance, may they be servants of God to accomplish His work in us, that "we may perfect and complete, lacking nothing" James 1:4.  S.D.G.





5 comments:

  1. I'm proud of you babe. Good topic. It reminds me of one of my biggest peeves in Christian lingo... the phrase, "When God closes a door He opens a window" {insert melody here}. No, probably more often when God closes a door He's trying to say, "Uh... hello? I've already told you, you need to change your direction!"

    Love you!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Good post! What is the saying? Man proposes but God disposes. If there is not a square inch of this world that God does not claim, than He lovingly shapes me into a more sanctified soul by the process you describe. Another truth is the sovereign will of God is in everything - the delayed plane flights, the dead car battery, the sudden cancellation of plans. While I'm busy being frustrated and upset, the larger truth is - what potential calamity has He spared me from that I don't even know about? Our loving God also keeps His children safe and secure for His glory by these frustrating life moments.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Very well stated, DJINFL! I love "Man proposes but God disposes." I'm going to start saying that! Couldn't agree more with everything you shared!!!! Thank you so much for posting this. I hope everyone sees it.

    Ch.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Always a good reminder that we are & always will be on 'Plan A'. :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. What's with the perfect timing of your posts?! This is great, Christi! Thanks...I think;)

    ReplyDelete