In this chapter we come face to face with
the consequences of allowing our passion for our Shepherd to fade, to take second
place in our hearts and minds. As focus on Him and His will
decreases, the door of opportunity for deceptive voices squeaks
open, allowing them to gain preeminence in our thoughts.
How vital it is that we leave no room for
any other voice to influence us but that of the Holy Spirit!
As you join Much-Afraid in her journey
through the mist, dig into the psalms of David. Time and again
that shepherd-turned-king was assailed by doubts from within
and assaults from without — yet he recognized that solace
and strength come only from crying out in trust to his Lord.
That trust needs to be firmly in place as
we continue our journey to the High Places. Your
“mist” experience is preparing you for the fiery
trials to come!
Chapter 12 In the Mist
1. At last the storm gradually died
down...; 2. When they started...
Much-Afraid and her two companions have
gratefully weathered the torrential storm safely sheltered in
the cozy cabin. Perhaps you’ve been experiencing a
breather yourself after facing a personal crisis that assaulted
you or your family. You probably wish that that sense of peace
could last longer. But chances are, our Father has other
“spiritual growth opportunities” in store for you.
You may be experiencing some painful
reminders of the cost to you thus far in your travels. Perhaps
there are some formerly dear relationships that have turned
away because of your zeal to follow in the Shepherd’s
steps. Maybe you long for the phone to ring or the email to
bring you news from those with whom you once shared friendship.
But your time in the mist is a preparation
period in which you need to confront any lingering doubts you
have about the Lordship of your living Shepherd and your
willingness to follow Him anywhere through anything. This time in the mist is a very necessary time
of personal evaluation before you climb any further.
The Israelites of old could have shortened
their desert experience by 38 years had they chosen to trust
God without reservation. Yet they chose to make a presumptuous
stand of disbelief at Kadesh Barnea (so near the border of
Canaan!). They sent out twelve spies to see if the Promised
Land was as good as the Lord had said. Then they believed the
fear-based reports of the ten, shoving aside the faith-based
trust of Caleb and Joshua.
For their disbelief they died in the
barren sand. Not one of that adult generation would see the
promise fulfilled. Your doubt in His faithfulness carries similar
Describe a period in which you felt
you were being called to give 110% for quite a while before the
goal was reached. How did you respond when that effort was
3. She began to realize that...
Just as trees and vines pass through
different seasons of rest, preparation and production, so do
followers of Jesus in their life pilgrimage. After the joy of
bearing fruit fit for harvest, a grapevine’s leaves are
tattered, the branches straggly, and the entire plant in need
During the cold winter months the plant
may actually appear dead, but the roots are still vibrant with
potential life! If those roots decided on their own to send up
shoots too early, a freeze would destroy the tender buds. That
season of rest in the dark is vital for the health of the
Much-Afraid had endured the thrill of the
various trials she’d undergone so far. The new test,
however, was quite different, calling on her to continue to
trust and love the Shepherd in the day-in, day-out trudge of
the mist which blocked out the sun’s warm penetration.
You’ve been through those times
yourself when the thought, “Will this ever end?”
insinuates itself into your attitude as well. Whether
you’re a mom with energetic toddlers or an employee with
a demanding boss (or whatever your repetitive situation that
never seems to change), our Father is presenting you with a
classroom for patient endurance and steadfast loving trust to
emerge with greater maturity in your character.
The real danger during this season is a
grumbling, complaining heart that becomes sluggish in its
For God is not so unfair as to forget your
work and the love you showed for him in your past service for
his people — and in your present service too. However, we want
each one of you to keep showing the
same diligence right up to the end,
when your hope will be realized, so that you will not become sluggish,
but will be imitators of those who by their trust and patience are
receiving what has been promised” (Hebrews 6:10-12).
Would people who know you well
describe you as a grumbler or complainer when trials come your
way? When did you last grumble? About what?
Do you find greater satisfaction
when you’re accomplishing something, even under pressure,
than when you lose sight of God’s purpose in your
character development through tedious times?
4. At last she burst out...; 5. “No,
it won’t”...; 6. Much-Afraid pretended...
As soon as you entertain thoughts that
rail against your circumstances, you’re voicing music to
the enemy’s ears! Words that Jesus would never say
overtake your mind so convincingly that you begin to believe
them. The same exaggeration of truth that Eve swallowed along
with the fruit convinces you that God doesn’t have your
best interest at heart. In fact, you begin to suspect that you
may never escape the drudgery that’s so irritating
Redirect those complaints that issue from
burgeoning resentment. Ask yourself if your Shepherd has ever
failed you in any matter. Our great High Priest fully
understands your present trial because He’s been there!
Jesus has been confronted with the temptation to grumble
(though He never did), and He knows your weakness. But He
continuously invites you to lift away your veil of mist and “confidently approach the throne from
which God gives grace, so that [you] may receive mercy and find
grace in [your] time of need” (Hebrews
If you’ve ever flown any distance,
you realize that even though you may be taking off in a
fogbank, once the plane passes through the clouds you find
yourself in brilliant sunlight. That doesn’t mean that
the sun didn’t exist while you were on the ground; you
just didn’t see it from that perspective.
The writer of Ecclesiastes assures us that
that “for everything there is a season” — and
this season of mist, too, will pass. If you enter a new season
of life with presuppositions of how long it will last,
you’re sure to be disappointed!
Are you wearing down those around
you by giving way to complaining thoughts?
What circumstances are you facing
right now that can become a catalyst for grumbling?
7. “Have you noticed,
Much-Afraid,”...; 8. Much-Afraid had not...
Sue: Mike and I have lived in 17 different
homes during our years together. Some have been delightful,
others more of a “roof over our heads” variety. But
we have learned from our various relocations that our Father
has very real purposes for each home, whether in what
we’re able to accomplish there or whom we’re to
We’ve never been sure whether each
season would last months or years. All that was understood was
that our Father would make known when a new season was
Sue: When Mike and I returned to
Connecticut to care for his invalid mother, we had no idea what
that would entail on a daily basis, nor how long our care for
her in her home would last. But we sure learned to grasp onto
our daily bread’s worth of grace and strength from Him!
We also discovered so much darkness
lurking in the recesses of our hearts that popped up
unexpectedly and horrifyingly to two people who had thought we
were loving and compassionate! We can look back now and see how
needful that period was in our character development in order
to share with others that which our Shepherd wanted us to
When you find yourself listening to voices
of resentment, take those thoughts captive! Much-Afraid failed
to exercise a discerning heart when she considered those
malevolent thoughts. Resentment made very sure he didn’t
mention the Shepherd’s name or His purposes and plans. By
focusing Much-Afraid on her bleak circumstances, he succeeded
in diverting her attention from love-grounded obedience to her
Don’t let circumstances dictate Who
God is to you! If you bemoan that you don’t feel any
progress in Christlike character, or that you don’t see
that your life is impacting anyone around you in a Godly
way, you’re stuck in the “horizontal”
reference framework. You’re disbelieving that our Lord
can make the changes He desires as you yield to His will. Then
you begin to distrust that He’s even guiding you through
When those doubts beset you, call out to
your Shepherd! Seek out someone mature in their trust in Him
and listen to what they offer in counsel and testimony! Ask
them about their own time “in the mist” and how our
Lord delivered them. Find out what they learned about the
importance of life experiences in which no progress seemed
evident for a while.
Much-Afraid was blessed that her two
companions didn’t coddle her doubts or smooth over her
resentment. Instead, they redirected her to the faithfulness of
the Shepherd and the unbending principle of staying on His
path. That’s true ministry! They may well have been thinking
of David’s comforting words: “You
keep me alive when surrounded by danger; you put out your hand
when my enemies rage; with your right hand you save me. The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me” (Psalm
You can’t keep your enemy from
whispering thoughts of doubt and resentment. But you can take those
thoughts captive and recognize that they aren’t emanating
from the Holy Spirit!
How can you catch yourself when
you’re about to give way to grumbling? What Bible verses
are especially helpful to you?
Who in your life is effective in
confronting your shortsightedness and turning you back to
wholehearted trust in your Shepherd?
9. “But,” persisted
Much-Afraid...; 10. Their only answer was...; 11. Sorrow and
Suffering took...; 12. To this they replied...
A little wedge of resentment lodged itself
firmly in Much-Afraid, inviting another “unJesus”
voice to attach itself like poison oak around her mind. And not
being content to moan alone, she tried to get her two
companions to take up her plaint against the Shepherd.
Have you ever noticed what a predictable
tactic that is? People who are resentful and bitter want you to
take their side, even if you’ve never had reason to
resent the one against whom they’re bitter! It’s as
though your agreement will justify their right to carry such an
At any time Much-Afraid could have stopped
those voices by recalling the faithfulness of the Shepherd and
His unfailing love. If she’d crawled out of her own
self-imposed gloom she would have perceived that the mere
presence of her companions fore and aft were testimony of her
Shepherd’s kindness to her on the journey. Instead, she
chose to gnaw on the gristle of discontent.
Do you ever find yourself so entrenched in
your own perceptions that you don’t have room in your
mind for the facts? Sorrow and Suffering were so unshakably
confident in the One Who had directed them that, even if they were going in
circles, their hearts were at rest.
How do you respond when
you’re on the receiving end of someone else’s
grumbling or voiced resentment against a third party?
Do you ever use others as a
sounding board for your discontent or bitterness because
you’re reluctant to go to God, knowing that He will cause
you to be accountable and stir you to repent? When is the last
time you sounded off at another person to vent your resentful
13. “You poor little thing”...;
14. So they went on...
“If I were in charge, things would
be different!” Have you ever felt that way, wondering why
someone who is as incompetent or unfeeling as _________ (fill
in the blank) has authority in your life?
And look at the button Self-Pity pushes:
wasted time, fruitlessness! We Americans are so time-conscious,
probably because we feel we have so little of it. But
restructure that thought according to our Father’s
purposes. If your priorities overlap His, you do have enough
time to live fully without waste. He is a God of order.
If you’re frantic, He didn’t
put it there; you did, by pursuing your own motivations and goals.
It’s all too easy to get sucked into obligations and
activities that our Father hasn’t earmarked for you, your
spouse or your family.
STOP before you agree to another meeting,
program, or invitation. Heed the life-giving injunction: “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). You can’t refresh
your heart with His loving presence unless you quiet your
thoughts and focus on His loving sovereignty.
The perceived quality of fruit is not
determined by the tree’s opinion but by the taster. Your
fruitfulness matters to the One Who is producing it in and
through you for His pleasure! Never measure your fruit by the lives of
others. It’s only by His grace that they’re bearing
Kingdom fruit at all! Straining to be or to do or to have beyond what our Shepherd has for you
yields grumbling, thanklessness and a restless heart.
How do you occupy your time when
you’re not meeting obligations or someone else’s
needs? Do you find restorative refreshment in what you choose
to do in your moments of discretionary time?
Against whom do you most often
harbor resentful thoughts about the way in which he/she
exercises authority? Have you taken those thoughts captive,
then asked forgiveness of that person for not being there for
them with the right heart and attitude?
15. Suffering doggedly led the way...
You may have decided all along that there
was no turning back on your journey to the High Places, but
your attitude can make everyone else traveling with you
miserable. Jesus, the heart circumsiser, is dealing with your
love for Him and your obedient trust in His ways of deepening
You, on the other hand, are complaining
inwardly (or outwardly) so much that your very presence can be
annoying to those who have to be around you! No wonder the mist
seemed to get “thicker and colder and drearier than
ever” for Much-Afraid. She recognized that she was
responding from her old flesh nature, yet she continued to
wallow in her emotional mud.
Sue: It’s all too easy for us women
to blame our hormones (or lack of them, for some of us!) for
our irritability or unkind responses.But our Creator knows our
weakness in this area as well, and wants us to call upon Him
for His Spirit to work in us so that we don’t lash out at
How many times has your husband (or boss
or friend) had to take a deep apprehensive breath before
confronting you about your attitude or behavior?
Much-Afraid’s slipping and stumbling are as uncomfortable
for her companions as for herself. But, her stubborn refusal to
trust the Shepherd’s way has brought this on her.
Don’t expect anyone else to cater to
your rebellion and inner turmoil. That’s manipulation
— using behavior to control others. The Bible refers to
it as sorcery, and you sure don’t want to suffer the
consequences of that! (See 1 Samuel 15 for the sorry tale of
Saul’s deceptive rationale that led to rebellion and
opened the door for sorcery in his life.)
Each of us needs family in Jesus who are
steadfast in their trust and purpose in Him. Their example as
well as their witness testify to how much we need our
Lord’s perspective. That’s why the apostle Paul can
exhort the believers at Philippi to do everything without
complaining or arguing (see Philippians 2:14), so that their
lives will shine like stars in the midst of their perverse,
sin-grubby society. Go and do likewise!
What thoughts lure you the most
when your life is “unspeakably tame” and seemingly
If you are a woman, when did you
last take advantage of your monthly cycle to exercise
manipulation or control by your attitude or words? Have you
asked forgiveness from those you violated because of this?
16. At last, one afternoon...; 17. It has
not been mentioned...; 18. It was not pleasant to think...
Why do we, like Much-Afraid, wait so long
to express our trust in our Shepherd? Regardless of the quality
of our voices, the Holy Spirit yearns to stir us to lift praise
and delight to our Father!
When David spent day after day watching
his woolly charges graze, he may have hoped at times that his
future would hold more for him than this. But during these
“treadmill times” he also composed some of the most
comforting songs of praise that have ever been recorded. Dig
out your concordance and notice how often references to songs
and singing appear!
When you sing to our Lord, not only do His
ears take delight, but your heart grows warm as well when your
song is from your spirit! By turning her heart toward the One
Who is life, Much-Afraid chases away the tormenting voices of
Resentment, Self-Pity and Bitterness. As her hope is fleshed
out in song, her jubilance soars!
Sue: Certain songs never fail to bring me
to tears of gratefulness for my Savior and His love. Just the
thought of someday seeing Jesus face to face and awaiting a
“Well done, My faithful one” stirs me to keep
pressing on in His love and His purposes, even on the days when
I’m ready to scream, “ANYTIME NOW!!”
Keep in mind the strength you draw from
calling upon His Spirit within to sing through you to the
Throne of mercy. Come before Him with a song in your heart each
morning before stress can overtake you, and each evening so
that He’s the last One your thoughts rest on before you
sleep. (See Psalm 92:1,2).
Has anyone ever made fun of your
singing voice to the extent that you rarely sing around
Has the Holy Spirit ever given you
lyrics or a tune you’ve never heard before that keeps
coming back to you? Have you written the words down so
you’ll have them as a special gift from Him to share when
19. “Why, Much-Afraid”...; 20.
There, striding toward her...; 21. “O Shepherd”...
Did you notice that at the time
Much-Afraid chose to begin to express trust in the promises of
the Shepherd, the mist had not yet broken? She didn’t
sing because everything was cheery; rather, she sang in spite
of the mist! And just at that point of expressed trust, the
Shepherd made His appearance — and the mist rapidly
What can we learn from this experience?
Well, we know that even a “mustard seed” of hope in
the great Promise Keeper dispels the irritating voices that try
to confound our trust. And, we see that Much-Afraid’s
song was actually a recitation of Scripture that she’d
previously heard from her companion Sorrow. As well, we see
that a praise song directed to our Lord dispels mist-like
confusion and refreshes our hearts.
The Psalms overflow with text that was
originally designed to be set to music. Think of how many of
these writings begin with “To the tune of...”, or
declare the exhortation, “Sing to the Lord”!
There’s a wonderful healing power when we lift our voices
in melodies to our Lord, especially since only mankind has been
equipped in our Creator’s image to set words to music!
We can learn a lot about offering to our
Lord “new songs” by listening to children when
they’re unaware of being overheard. Many times
you’ll hear them pipe up with all sorts of jingles set to
tunes they may have never heard before. And what a teachable
moment for you to take even familiar melodies and fit Scripture
verses to them to learn as a family!
Sue: I recently came across a simple song
that powerfully summed up the goal of our pilgrimage to the
High Places. Notice that there’s nothing complicated or
intricate in the words — just scriptural truth in
singable form. As you read it, see if a tune comes to your
heart to make it personal!
I Want To Walk As A Child Of The Light
I want to walk as a child of the light,
I want to follow Jesus.
God set the stars to give light to the
The star of my life is Jesus.
In Him there is no darkness at all
The night and the day are both alike.
The Lamb is the light in the city of God,
Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus.
I want to see the brightness of God,
I want to look at Jesus.
Clear sun of righteousness shine on my
And show me the way to the Father.
I’m looking for the coming of
I want to be with Jesus.
When we have run with patience the race
We shall know the joy of Jesus.
Even in your loneliest, darkest hours, if
a hymn or Scripture song comes to you, sing it! The Spirit can
use that spark of trust in our Shepherd to bring light into
your sorrowful situation and melt the gloom with hope.
Dig up some of those special songs
that so blessed you in your early walk with our Lord. Share
them with someone close to you and talk about why they were so
meaningful to you at that time.
Ask our Lord to put a new song into
your heart as you pray and search His Word. Then share that
gift with those in your faith family.
22. “Tell me,”...; 23.
“Sorrow taught it to me”...; 24. “I am glad
you sing it”...
Scripture tells us that our Lord will
rejoice over the city from which He will rule, Jerusalem. How
much more will He rejoice over you as His Bride! The prophet
Zephaniah must have been thrilled when he wrote about Jerusalem
(and about all who belong to the coming King!), “Sing, O Daughter of Zion, shout aloud, O
Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O Daughter of
Jerusalem! ...The Lord your God is
with you, he is mighty to save. He
will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:
That promise yet to be fulfilled is plenty
of reason to sing and shout! There are no promises that He will withhold from
those who love Him and are called His own!
Much-Afraid still focuses with shame on
her own shortcomings and weaknesses — her
“bedraggled and muddy condition”. She still
hasn’t realized the love which filters the way the Shepherd sees
Are you bogged down by the pain of past regret and
failures? Cry out now to Jesus for a passion for Him and
for that which He yearns to bring about in and through you!
He’s viewing you with eyes of grace because He knows
already what He can accomplish in your heart as you continue to
yield to His will.
Have you forgotten your
Shepherd’s joy in you even as you struggle to put one
foot of faith in front of the other? Pause here to refresh your
passion in the Person of Jesus your Lord. Breathe in once again
His intense love for you, even as weak as you might see
What “crooked feet”
from your past keep you from seeing yourself with His eyes of
love? Are you willing to place these regrets and pain at the
foot of His Cross so that you can be made whole and new in Him?
25. “O Shepherd,” exclaimed
Much-Afraid...; 26. Again he smiled...; 27. Poor
Much-Afraid...; 28. “Much-Afraid,” said he very gently...
How do you respond when a brother or
sister in Jesus who is close to you speaks with you about an
area in which you’re stumbling? Before you jump all over
that person and hotly defend yourself, remember this: “Faithful are the wounds of a
friend” (Proverbs 27:6, KJV),
and “Better open rebuke than
hidden love” (Proverbs
It takes loving courage to approach
someone you care about in order to help them make a
“course correction” in their journey — a
change from an area of darkness to a step of light. Yet in this
“anything goes” culture, any correction is seen as
“judgmental” or “intolerant”.
But note Paul’s call to his younger
protegé Timothy to proclaim God’s Word in order to “convict, censure and exhort
with unfailing patience and with teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2). Righteousness is right
even if it’s painful to receive! (And Paul also reminds
Timothy to walk the talk himself so that no charge of hypocrisy
can be leveled at him!)
Surely we’re living in a time in
which people “cater to their passions” and stop
listening to the truth. But ignorance is no excuse before our
Father! A true friend in Jesus sees beyond the present moment
of discomfort to redirect his brother or sister toward the One
Whose way brings life, peace and joy.
painfully” because she knew the Shepherd had noticed her
slipping and stumbling. He never denied that she indeed had
“stains and defilements”. But his gentle response
emanated from a heart that loved her enough to confront the truth of her present condition. Then He steered her to the greater
goal that lay ahead, being with Him and skipping and leaping on the High
Sue: I can get so caught up in doing work
that I forget that the Kingdom of God is people who are more
important than tasks. When Mike or others close to me have
confronted me with correction, I’ve sometimes reacted as
though they’d called me a failure (which wasn’t the
case at all!). But they’ve seen through a blind spot and
loved me enough to point out that area to help me find the joy
of walking in a way that pleases our Father. And from our
Father’s perspective, we haven’t
“failed”; we’ve just slipped by a truth that
He’s wanted to correct.
As you pray for your family in Jesus,
remember that you may be the heart and mouth that our Lord chooses
to use as His messenger of loving course correction!
When was the last time someone who
cared about you offered a “course correction” for
your life to help guide you back into righteousness in a
When was the last time you resonded
to the Spirit’s nudge and confronted with a right heart a
brother or sister in sin?
How do you react when someone does
make known an area in which you’ve strayed off the path
of righteous living? Are you willing to ask forgiveness for
those you’ve “jumped” when they’ve
spoken to you out of loving concern?
29. “Yes,” said Much-Afraid
thankfully...; 30. By this time the mist...; 31. “Did you
really think”...; 32. She looked at him sorrowfully...
What calm and peace permeates our hearts
when we turn with humility to the Lamb Who so loves us!
Much-Afraid chose to rest and rejoice in the Shepherd's
presence, noticing and basking in the sparkling reflection of
the dripping leaves. She’d finally stopped being consumed
by the tyranny of self that had blinded her to the beauty
She realized that doubting Him had led to
her downward spiral of listening to, then believing, the
deceptive voices of Resent-ment and the others. The
Shepherd’s quiet question to her about His intervention
could be summed up by King David:
The Lord supports all who fall and lifts
up all who are bent over... The Lord is close to all who call
on him, to all who sincerely call on him. He fulfills the
desire of all who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them.
The Lord protects all who love him, but all the wicked he
destroys (Psalm 145:14,18-20,
See your circumstances with the eyes of
your spirit! The Shepherd is pointing you forward in hope,
lifting the weight of your daily burdens as you trust that
you’re on the path He’s set before you. When you
begin to doubt that His sovereign power and love are able to
keep you from straying without warning, those demonic voices
are sure to once again begin their insidious whispering.
When the mist starts to encompass you,
think of yourself as a small child during the night. Those
fears that beset you when your bedroom light was off were just
an illusion. When Dad turned the light on, you realized you
really had been safe all along. And when you turn your heart
away from the besetting voices and focus on the Light, your
dragon-like trials will lose their teeth.
Do you really believe in your heart
that our Shepherd won’t let you go astray without first
warning you? What sort of warnings do you think He’s
What experience can you relate in
which you purposely ignored warnings and chose to stray off His
path of right living? What turned you back to following His
33. “You had better become a
singer”...; 34. She looked at him earnestly...; 35.
“I never could have managed”...
Sue: Mike and I have been so blessed along
our journey to have loadbearing relationships in which we were
free to speak with love into each other’s lives. Passing
through painful valleys with others who are committed to
one-anothering deepens our trust in His faithfulness to set us
back on the right path again.
When you’ve tasted some of
life’s bitter waters and found healing at the hands of
companions He’s drawn alongside you for a specific
season, you’re equipped to pass along the fruit of those
relationships with others.
Years ago, the so-called
“Shepherding Movement” tore the spiritual
confidence of many. Self-determined “shepherds” put
themselves in authority over individuals and exercised control
in such a way that they fulfilled Much-Afraid’s earlier
fear: They did “drag people along without caring how they
felt” as human beings and as followers of Jesus.
This highhanded approach of control did
grave injustice to the biblical role of true elders called by
our Father to lead as shepherds with wisdom and compassion for
the sheep. By the time true shepherds reach spiritual maturity,
they themselves have experienced the tender mercies of our
Father in their own missteps. They’ve been equipped by
His grace to come alongside the faltering with our
Much-Afraid was grateful that her
companions weren’t just following “the commandment
which you have given them”, but were truly eager to help
her reach the High Places. What a difference between those who
may occupy space around you in a congregational setting but
never invite you into their homes, and those who are committed
as extended spiritual family in Jesus with you! The former are
positional relationships because you happen to be at the same
place doing the same thing. But the latter have been threaded
into your life fabric by the Spirit!
Committed family in Jesus rejoice with
each other as lives are changed from worldliness to
Christ-likeness. They understand the mutual encouragement and
loving responsibility to help each other press on to the High
Places of Christ’s character.
Maybe you feel that you don’t have
time to commit to come alongside a few others as extended
spiritual family. Ask our Lord for His heart and the
discernment to recognize those He does want you joined with in
a deeper way. As you follow His lead as a family, He’ll
help you reprioritize your activities and hours to align with
Who are the companions in your life
who are helping you to further reflect the character of Jesus?
Who are you helping to walk more boldly along the
Have you ever been spiritually
abused by someone who misused your trust? How did that
experience affect subsequent relationships?
36. As she finished speaking...; 37. They
were sitting apart...; 38. There was something almost
No wonder Sorrow and Suffering are
laughing at this point! They fully understand that which
Much-Afraid is just beginning to grasp: As the young woman
decides to turn from her doubts and unbelief, she finds
ever-more secure footing in the Shepherd’s faithfulness
and power! The limping little soldier is learning that yielded
willingness is key to a growing maturity that can pierce mists
Only a pilgrim who has been tried and
tested yet has responded with a yielded heart can make the leap
from baleful resignation over circumstances to joyful gratefulness for His faithfulness! We may not have control over the things that
come at us, but we can develop our Lord’s perspective on
Once again the Book of Psalms puts into
words the attitude our Father is trying to develop in us
through our trials:
Before I was humbled I used to go astray;
but now I observe your word. You are
good, and you do good; teach me your
laws....It was for my good that I have been humbled; it was so that I
would learn your laws (Psalm119:
Psalmist understands the basic goodness of God in both His
Person and His ways, even when He humbles us. Recount a
situation in which you were humbled for your good.
In what ways was your character
changed because of this humbling circumstance?
39. The Shepherd watched them...; 40.
Sorrow and Suffering dropped the veils...; 41. The laughter
died out...; 42. She looked at him...
It’s all too easy to say that you love
Jesus, yet live in a way that sets up a personal defense
against actually trusting Him. Trust means that you know Him in your spirit,
and that He knows you. You and He are intricately connected in love,
the devoted self-sacrifice that willingly yields to His will
and purposes just as Jesus does with His Father.
Keeping one foot in the camp of approval
by others as an insurance policy against a new path to which He
may be calling you is not trust! Our prophetic forebears who loved
and served God didn’t ask to be set apart to proclaim His
messages. But they yielded to His will and were found faithful
to follow through as His heart and mouth — usually
at great personal cost!
The question the Shepherd poses to
Much-Afraid as to whether her love is willing to trust Him
completely is a poignant query for each of us. He knows that His
arms can uphold you in every trial, but are you willing to trust that?
Much-Afraid responds self-deprecatingly about her desire to love,
even with her “cold little heart.” But she already
knew that his question was leading to the reality of a new test
coming her way. She was already fearfully anticipating the
trial to come more than she was focusing on the faithful
Shepherd standing with her.
Offer evidence from your own life
choices that you understand the difference between saying you love God
and actually following Him in trust.
Who would be the people from whom
you’d most likely seek approval before stepping out in
faith to follow the Shepherd? Do their lives reflect the
victory of righteousness and answered prayer? Or, are they
those who are reluctant to leave fruitlessness behind?
43. “Would you be willing to trust
me”...; 44. She looked at him...; 45. “O
Shep-herd,” she implored...
Much-Afraid’s rock-solid trust that
the Shepherd cannot lie is a firm foundation for her
willingness (if not eagerness) to undergo whatever is necessary
to reach the High Places. She has endured so much up to this
point, and can repeat in her heart with the same conviction as
I will go on
walking in the presence of the Lord
in the lands of the living. I will keep
on trusting even when I say,
”I am utterly miserable,” even when, in my panic, I
declare, “Everything human is deceptive” (Psalm 116:9-11).
Sue: I can identify with Much-Afraid's
doubts at times. I know Whom I’ve believed, but I also know
my own frailties. How grateful I am that my Savior is so
willing to forgive my weaknesses when I call upon Him in trust!
Many times I’ve camped on promises such as these:
“Because [she] loves me, I will
rescue [her]; because [she] knows my name, I will protect
[her]. [She] will call on me and I will answer [her]. I will be
with [her] when [she] is in trouble” (Psalm 91;14,15).
(Sometimes it’s helpful to put yourself into those
promises, even inserting your own name, just to make sure you
know He’s speaking to you!)
Through what particular test might
the Shepherd pass you that might cause you to doubt that it
came from Him?
Have you ever undergone a test from
our Lord that others said couldn’t have come from Him? How did you respond
while you were going through it? What change came about in you
to confirm in your heart that this trial was indeed intended by
our Father to produce righteous fruit in your character?
46. He said nothing...; 47. It was then her
turn...; 48. Suddenly she burst into a passion of weeping...
Much-Afraid’s response to the
profound thought that she might truly be deceived by the
Shepherd evokes a flood of passionate tears. She didn’t
pause to weigh the pros and cons of loving and serving the
Shepherd. Instead, her heart propelled her to trust Him no
matter what circumstances confronted her.
She was willing to be deceived, if that
were possible. Her very existence depended on loving Him
. She was no longer looking
for His hand to meet her needs. She looked straight into His face, declaring her
whole life to be His. As with the young shepherd David, she
could declare with passion, “I
love you, Lord, my strength,...my Rock, my fortress and
deliverer, my God, my Rock in whom I find shelter, my shield,
the power that saves me, my stronghold” (Psalm 18:1,2).
That’s the kind of loving trust that
places one foot in front of the other, regardless of where the
If your heart and spirit trust
Jesus, can you ever “lose Him”?
When have you ever been deceived by
the enemy into thinking that you’ve lost Jesus’
love? How was your trust in His love restored?
49. He laid his hands on her head...; 50.
Much-Afraid picked up a little icy-cold pebble...
Another pebble, this one icy-cold, joins
the other stones of remembrance in Much-Afraid’s small
bag. She knows that the next test will be the most severe yet,
even from the hand of the One most tender.
Perhaps you’ve encountered people
who declare that tests and trials come only from Satan, that
God doesn’t test “New Testament saints.”
(That’s one of many “false gospels” abounding
in the Western church in particular.) The apostle Peter, a man
who tasted the cup of suffering often, would differ with that
concept. He assures us that our Father tests the gold of our
trust in order to prove that it’s genuine and
praiseworthy, fit for the King. (See 1 Peter 1:6,7.)
Our Lord has proven Himself to be faithful
in every custom-tailored trial we’ve ever encountered.
Don’t forget the lessons you’ve learned through
each season of suffering. These have been opportunities to grow
in perseverance, character, and especially, hope. It’s our hope that,
as you prepare yourself for whatever comes next to strengthen
your love and trust, you will be quick to cry out to our
Shepherd to sustain you through it until that which He needs to
accomplish in and through you is fulfilled!