Mike: With this chapter something
wonderful becomes solidified in our journey to the High Places.
I’ve been waiting for the opportunity to comment on this
chapter since we began writing the series. The Valley of Loss
has such significance to anyone who wants to embrace everything
the relationship with our Lord requires. You cannot go beyond
this point to the High Place without a complete death to, or
loss of, everything you once were.
To reach the end of this chapter will
require some deep soul-searching on your part. Don’t try
to rush through it. Stop and take to heart the issues that
Much-Afraid faces, and put yourself in her place.
Chapter 13 In the Valley of Loss
1. The mist had cleared from the
We are told, “The path still led
them along the side of the mountain rather than
upward...” If you have matured to some degree in your
walk with our Lord, you have come to realize that God seldom
changes the conditions about which we pray without first changing us.
Facing arduous or impossible circumstances
and situations is the “Classroom of Increasing Trust in
our Lord.” He uses difficulties to drive us closer in
dependence on Him so that we may all the more trust in Him. He wants our
trust to be a lifestyle, not a visit! King David assures us from his
own experience, “Commit your
way to the Lord, trust in Him and He will act” (Psalm 37:5).
To Much-Afraid, departing the higher
reaches of the mountain was like having to go down to Egypt
again. What “Egypt” experiences have you found yourself
facing yet again?
Perhaps you’re familiar with this
anecdote before. It’s worth repeating because it
furnishes insight into our Father’s way of developing our
character into that of Jesus:
A woman visited a godly elder and asked
him to pray that she would have more patience. As the older man
put his hand on her shoulder he prayed, “Lord, give this
woman trials and tribulations that she must pass
through...” She interrupted him, “Wait! I asked you
to pray for patience.” “Daughter,” he replied
firmly, “you can never learn patience unless you go through
trials and tribulation.”
When you cry out to our Lord during
difficult or impossible circumstances, is your plea only that
He change your painful predicament? Or, do you strongly
consider that He might be wanting to deepen something in your
character and trust?
Describe an episode in your life
when things finally seemed to be going well — then POW!
An even greater trial faced you. How did you respond to the new
2. All three halted and looked...; 3.
It isn’t unlike our Lord to bring
you to points in your life that appear increasingly more difficult
and impossible. That simple description of what Much-Afraid was
facing paints a graphic picture: “even higher than the
Precipice of Injury.” Hey! That Precipice of Injury was
one painful experience itself!
Mike: Sue and I have found during our 27
years of following Jesus that our pilgrimage is like an upward
spiral. At different times along the journey it seems like you
are going through the same circumstances all over again. Your
pilgrimage upward has been more like a spiral than a straight
path. You are dealing with some of the same issues, but at a
more mature level.
You need to be careful that when the
circumstances seem even more difficult, you don’t
begin to listen to the voices that tell you that you have gained nothing in
your pilgrimage. Maybe you sigh painfully inward, thinking that
you are right back where you started, that you’re no more
Christlike now than way back when you first encountered Him.
That’s what briefly occurred to Much-Afraid as she
realized they had to descend into that deep valley, “just
as though they had never made a start so long ago and endured
so many difficulties and tests.”
You may cave in to despair if you
don’t recognize that the character qualities of Jesus
that our Father desires to see developed in His children are
accomplished over a series of steps and not all at once. In other
words, as you repeat similar difficult circumstances in your
life, you are given additional opportunity to cultivate a
particular character quality. For instance, you seldom develop
steadfast, unshakable love or trust in just one lesson!
In the chapters we’ve discussed so
far, Much-Afraid has faced recurring issues. Will she continue
to trust the Shepherd? Can she persistently take bitter or
fearful thoughts captive? As Much-Afraid and her companions
stared down into the Valley of Loss, she was experiencing the
“sharpest and keenest test which she had encountered on
the journey.” Had everything else been a failure? Not at
all! She, like all of us, are brought to tests so that the
Shepherd can increase our trust in Him through unflagging
dependence on His faithfulness.
Many years ago Sue and I used to backpack
in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. At the end of an 8-day trip Sue
had gotten violently ill from tainted water, so bad that she
couldn’t carry her pack. On our last night I studied the
map and saw how we could cut off considerable distance by
bushwhacking across a ridge. Then, by following a river, we
would meet the main trail.
Everybody agreed with my idea, so the next
morning we crossed the ridge and began to follow the river.
After three trudging hours of following the river in what I had
estimated should take no more than 30 minutes, we stopped to
examine the map again. To my dismay (and this brought no joy to
sick Sue), we were following a fork of the river, not the main river. An hour
later we finally stumbled upon the main trail.
How does this story apply to our journey?
You can’t bushwhack from one spiral to another. There are no shortcuts to spiritual maturity! God has His ways of
developing the character of His Son Jesus in you. You need to
discern what it is that the Shepherd seeks to accomplish in
you, just as Much-Afraid was forced to do.
All along the way, as she has learned the
Shepherd’s carefully chosen lessons, Much-Afraid
underwent her altar experiences. Then she could pick up another
stone of remembrance. But in order to press on to the next
lesson, she had to follow the path the Shepherd set. It was
necessary that she leave behind two other options: to give up,
or to bushwhack straight up the mountain.
What spiral aspect of your life has
been a repeat circumstance?
What particular character trait has
been deepened into greater Christ-likeness as you have
confronted tests of a repetitive nature?
When have you tried to circumvent a
painful test by bushwhacking in your own strength? What did you
learn from your mistakes?
5. As she looked down...; 6. For one
black, awful moment...; 7. During that awful moment or two...
Here is a tested and true rule-of-thumb:
If you are going to follow Jesus whole-heartedly,
you WILL have times of
Don’t let yourself feel as though
there is something wrong with you. If you intend to press on in
your journey to all our Father desires in your life, you will
have your “Gethsemane
experiences”. These are our
Father’s way of solidifying your trust in Him: “Not my will, but yours be done.”
Often these experiences separate the
Christian in name only from the follower
of Jesus. Only a follower will ever
be able to answer Much-Afraid’s question, “How
could one follow a person who asked so much, who demanded such
impossible things, who took away everything?” This is a
very appropriate question when you are about to enter the
Valley of Loss.
If you who have been trapped into seeking
the acceptance and affirmation of others, this part of the
journey is going to be all the more painful. On the other hand,
if you are bent on pleasing our Lord with every step of
obedience, then you understand this statement: “She had
been following this strange path with her two companions as
guides simply because it was the Shepherd’s
choice for her.”
God’s call to obedience is usually
simple. He provides the barest of information and calls for you
to trust and follow through. Too many who, when challenged to
explain where and why they are going on the journey, provide
more explanation through their own rationale than that which
God told them. When you rationalize your obedience, something
dies inside you. You’re more likely to give up.
This is why it is important to stay within
the restrictions the apostle Paul sets: “Do not go beyond what [God says]” (1 Corinthians 4:6b). Our rationale tends to
divorce us from intimacy with our Lord. Somehow, when we go
beyond what He says or has written, we set ourselves above Him
believing that we have to justify our obedience. At that point
we are no longer followers but self-determiners.
We are told that Much-Afraid looked into
“an abyss of horror, into an existence in which
there was no Shepherd to follow or to trust or to love.”
Can you feel the empty pit in her stomach as these thoughts
went through her head? I am reminded of a passage in Psalms
that has brought me to tears on many occasions. The
Shepherd-King had been confronted about his sin with Bathsheba
and was brought to conviction. His pain in violating His Lord
was so intense that he sobbed, “Do
not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from
me” (Psalm 51:11). What a
piercing concern to be assailed with! But David’s
relationship with, and trust in, his Lord is solid. In the next
breath he can implore, “Restore
to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit,
to sustain me” (v.12).
Sue: You may have felt at some point in
your life that you have failed God. After I’ve wallowed
for a while in self-pity or depression, I generally find myself
sobbing to my Father because I grieve that I’ve
“let Him down.” Yet His ever-present Spirit
consoles, encourages and shows me the light of His way —
the path of loving obedience that leads to peace and acceptance
Try to picture yourself as Peter after he
denied Christ. Think of what three years of walking with Jesus
must have been like for him. Then, in light of all that loving
companionship with Jesus, you deny Him. Remember, the loving
restoration of Peter in John 21:15-19 is offered to all of us.
Have you ever experienced a time in
which you felt that you were right back where you started in
your walk with Jesus? How did you get out of that pit?
Are you a person who has to seek
affirmation from other people to fan your self-worth? Have you
found yourself trying to explain more about your steps of
obedience than God has revealed to you? How did you feel
8. “Shepherd,” she shrieked...
The painful thought of living without
Jesus is what many of us need to jolt us out of our
complacency. This is more easily understood by those who
understand salvation as a
pilgrimage to be received at
the Judgment Throne when your name is proclaimed to the hosts
Our Father already knows our hearts and
the intensity of our love for Him. But there are times that we
ourselves need to know our hearts, and He has just the right
tests to reveal to us if He is our all in all. King Hezekiah of
old had demonstrated his trust in the God of Israel to deliver
them from a powerful enemy. But he would then face a test
earmarked for him — whether he could stay humble in all
Envoys had been sent by the rulers of
Babylon to ask the king about his earlier miraculous healing. We’re told
that “God left him to test him and to know everything that
was in his heart” (2 Chronicles 31:31) — and what was
evident in his heart was pride. And the son born to him during
those fateful years after his healing would set a new
standard in doing evil in God’s sight.
Tests are sent to us by our Father to help
us determine if our trust is the genuine article or just a
self-centered appeasement through religious practices. So vital
is our need for trials to refine our trust that the apostle
Peter offers an entire discourse on the topic:
Through trusting, you are being protected
by God’s power for a deliverance ready to be revealed at
the Last Time. Rejoice in this, even though for a little while
you may have to experience grief in
various trials. Even gold is tested
for genuineness by fire. The purpose
of these trials is so that your trust’s genuineness, which is far more valuable than perishable gold,
will be judged worthy of praise, glory and honor at the revealing of
Jesus the Messiah (1 Peter 1:5-7)
If we are to press on and truly follow the
Shepherd of our souls, each of us must come to the same
ecstatic conclusion as Much-Afraid: “You may do anything,
Shepherd. You may ask anything — only don’t let me turn back. O my Lord, don’t let me leave you.”
Sue: Do you ever cry out in despair after
heartrending intercession seems to have gone unheard? A couple
years ago that was a situation in which I found myself. My
heart’s desire for my Father to do something was so
intense that I spent hours kneebound in prayer.
When the circumstance about which I was
praying ended far differently than I had hoped for, my Father
was still the Solid Rock on which I was standing. I learned
once again that it was far more important to keep seeking His
face — His unchanging, loving, all-powerful presence
— than to focus on His hand and what He might do. And
perhaps, just out of sight of my faith, He was in the midst of
that painful situation as well.
Don’t be surprised when our
Father tests you. If you are a parent, you frequently want to
know what is on the hearts and minds of your children. You want
feedback to see what your children are learning from your
parenting. What has your Father learned about your heart and
thoughts toward Him?
How do you respond when you sense a
separation from your Lord? (As Much-Afraid realized, He is constant;
it’s we who move in our trust.)
9. He lifted her up...; 10.
“It is no less true...
When God delays that which He has
promised, it hurts. As the proverb affirms, hope deferred makes
the heart sick. This is where our faith is stretched. The list
of heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11 defines what that
relational weld to our Lord looks like:
“Trusting is being confident of what we
hope for, convinced about things we do not see” (v. 1);
“Without trusting it is impossible
to be well-pleasing to God, because whoever approaches him must trust that he
does exist and that he becomes a Rewarder to those who seek him out” (v. 6).
“All these people kept on trusting until
they died, without receiving what had been promised; They had
only seen it and welcomed it from a distance, while
acknowledging that they were aliens
and temporary residents on the
earth” (v. 13).
Those who keep pressing on in trust
earnestly seek Him out, even if all they’ve cried out for
has yet to be fulfilled. That’s all part of being
“strangers” here on earth, subduing our fleshly
desires and refusing to be rooted in the world’s values
When Sue and I moved back to Colorado
Springs into this senior mobile home park, it was the last
place on earth we wanted to be. The last time we lived in this
city, a clergyman from one of the larger congregations read Prodigal Church and
did everything he could to destroy our ministry. But we moved
back here in response to God’s direction to return. As
our Ryder truck entered the city limits, the Holy Spirit
quickened into my spirit this message: “The religious
establishment here is going to come down soon. Who will be here
to tell the people the truth?” I then replied, “We
Much-Afraid is told by the Shepherd,
“This is the way, walk ye in it”, whether she turns
to the right or to the left. This passage has significance for
Sue and me. Upon our arrival back from Israel 10 years ago, our
spiritual father, Frank Murray, came to us with a prophetic
passage: “Although the Lord gives you
the bread of adversity and the water of
affliction, your teachers will be hidden no
more; with your own eyes you will see
them. Whether you turn to the right
or to the left, your ears will hear
a voice behind you, saying,
"This is the way; walk in it’” (Isaiah 30:20,21).
Are adversity and affliction strangers to
those who hear their Shepherd’s voice? Not at all. In
fact, these come from His hand to deepen our trust! Those tests
become our teachers to reveal His utter faithfulness.
How would you like to have been
Moses? It took 10 plagues before God released him and his
people to fulfill God’s purposes. What delays are
happening in your life to keep you from pursuing your
heart’s desire? How are you responding to these barriers?
11. He paused for a moment...; 12. She was
still clinging to Him..
The Shepherd asks Much-Afraid, “Will
you suffer yourself to lose or be deprived of all that you have gained on this journey to
the High Places?” This question is especially poignant
for those who still see their lives in terms of what they have in this world,
rather than in where they are going. James warns us not to align our priorities
with those of the world: “You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God” (James 4:4).
Have you noticed that the way down into
the Valley of Loss is the “path
of forgiveness”? Forgiveness
of everyone and of everything they have done is the only way you can
press on to what the Shepherd is calling you to.
At the end of Jesus’ discourse on
forgiveness in Matthew, chapter 18, He underscores the prison
of torment that your unforgiveness keeps you in: “In anger his master turned him over to the jailers until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my
heavenly Father will treat each of
you unless you forgive your brother from your heart” (vv. 34,35).
Our Father cannot tolerate unforgiveness
in His presence. But He loves you so much that He’ll do
whatever is necessary to turn your heart away from the soulish
satisfaction of bitterness so that you will forgive from your
heart, Your decision to forgive then frees His Spirit to flow
healing streams over those painful memories and remove the
sting from them.
We are told back in the Valley of
Humiliation that Much-Afraid cringed whenever she was in the
presence of her Fearing relatives. If you empathize with her,
there are probably some particular people in your own life
whose memory elicits strong emotions such as hurt, fear, anger,
shame. These past few months our Lord has prompted Mike and me
to pray blessing on some specific individuals whose last
contact was under unpleasant circumstances. How faithfully He
has been at work behind the scenes since then!
Just last week we had the opportunity
through a book order to renew contact with a man we’d not
seen for several years. It was definitely a “Joseph moment” of timing and receptivity, for that conversation
revealed that great changes had occurred in all of us through
the healing power of Jesus! We and he were both able to express
gratefulness for the roles we’d played in each
other’s lives “back then” that had ripened
into much fruit today.
Are you familiar with “Joseph
mo-ments”? The favored son of Jacob had been cruelly
abandoned by his brothers and sold into Egyptian slavery. But
through God’s intervention and Joseph’s steadfast
trust in Him, the young man came to power.
Before he chose to reveal his identity to
his starving brothers, Joseph needed to know in his heart that
they had changed. When that time came, he welcomed them with
open arms as their brother. You, too, must wait for the
appropriate time to renew relationships, when our Father has
tilled the soil of your and their hearts to be receptive and
Aren’t you grateful that our Lord
isn’t stagnant in regard to other people’s lives?
Sometimes we get so focused on our little ring in His pond that
we forget that He is rippling through the lives of others as
well! Any grievance you’re lugging about can be a
smoldering torch that will flare as an “enemy of
Love” on your journey. He’ll make sure that it
explodes into a conflagration that can’t be missed until
you confront your sin and extinguish it through forgiveness
from your heart.
Prepare your heart and spirit now for those
unexpected contacts with people from your past. If He’s
revealing some particular individuals who don’t evoke
love in your heart, ask His forgiveness for that darkness in
you. Purpose to forgive that person from your heart, and then
begin to pray blessing from our Lord for him or her.
This may not be a receptive time for you to initiate
contact, but as you pray with a clean heart and right motive,
our Father can release the circumstances and encounters into
that person’s life to prompt changes. You can be sure
that our Father will let you know when your “Joseph
moment” is ripe for restoration!
A word about forgiveness. Don’t be
presumptuous and go to someone who you think has offended you
and say, “I forgive you.” He or she may not even be
aware that they’ve done anything to upset or hurt you!
Rather than stitching up a wound, you may deepen an existing
one or create a fresh gash by magnanimously “extending
forgiveness” to a person who doesn’t even believe
that he or she has done you wrong.
Instead, follow Jesus’s command.
Forgive in and from your heart, just between you and God. We’ve heard
erroneous teaching that tells you to wait until the perceived
offender comes to you asking (begging?) you to forgive them.
Not only is that prideful arrogance at its worst, but it
violates Scripture! Neither the stoners of Stephen nor
the tormenters who crucified Jesus ASKED for forgiveness.
Rather, our Lord and His faithful disciple pleaded with our
Father to FORGIVE their persecutors.
Jesus was very specific when taught His
disciples to pray, “Forgive
us our trespasses as we have
already forgiven those who trespass
against us” (Matthew 6:12).
You forgive in and from your heart because that is where your healing will
take place — from God’s hand! You can’t
conjure up self-healing, but He hasn’t called you to,
either. As you purpose to forgive in and from your heart, He
will seal that wound with a scar that mirrors that of
Jesus’ scars. And you will then be equipped to minister
from your heart a testimony of healing to others who need to
IF your offender does ask you for
forgiveness, you will have already forgiven him/her in your
heart. You will be prepared in all truth to offer
reconciliation and restoration in that relationship.
At this point in the journey it is critical
that you be clean with everyone. Is
there someone you recall who stirs flickers (or even flames) of
bitterness or resentment in you? Choose to forgive them now from your heart,
and begin to pray God’s blessings for them whenever they
come to mind. You’ll find, as so many have, that your
prayers to bless them will heal your own heart. This is the only way
you can go down the path of forgiveness into the Valley of
Much-Afraid quotes the wonderfully
endearing words of Ruth to Naomi. If you have read our article, “The Gospel of the Covenant
is the Pilgrimage to Salvation”, you know that to live in
Covenant with our Lord means to live in union with
Isn’t this the basis of the Parable
of the Vine that Jesus relates in John 15:1-17? He speaks of
such an intimate attachment that without that union, we cannot
bear any fruit for Him. Since our Father will not forgive
anyone who does not forgive, abiding in the Vine is impossible
for those who remain bitter.
How would you respond if someone
from your past who you hoped would forget you ever lived
suddenly made contact with you? Would your attitude as well as
conversation reflect that you are now a follower of Jesus?
Are you able to picture the vast
incongruity of the grievance you feel justified holding on to
when the King of the universe has paid the price of His
faultless life for all the sin of
mankind? How does that question
make you feel?
If you are truly attached to the
Vine, describe your fruit-bearing for Jesus at this stage of
your life journey.
13. So another altar was built on top of
The altars we make upon which we sacrifice
something to our Lord should never be taken lightly. Not only
do they indicate our true repentance — that we have
turned away from sin to God — they are helpful reminders
as we teach others the way to the High Places.
This is what King David proclaims in Psalm
32. Only after he laid his own sins on the altar of repentance
would he then be able to teach others: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way
you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you” (v.8).
The “death to self” of the
altar experience is another point at which our Lord replaces
the rotted part of our old nature with the pure beauty of that
part of His character. That element of our sin nature is what
is being consumed on the altar, and the new slice of godliness
is represented in the pebble that is popped into our
After Much-Afraid tends to her own altar
of repentance, she experiences one of the most joyously
exhilarating parts of her trip. Much-Afraid “herself sang
the last two verses, and her heart was so full of joy...”
True joy emanates from complete repentance and produces
grateful worship of our Lord. As the Canticle states, a
“burst of rapture” lights up your soul to follow
our Shepherd with ever greater clarity and hope.
Have you ever experienced a
near-death situation? How did you feel during it? How did that
close call subsequently affect your life?
If our Lord were to end your
earthly life tonight, what would you have left undone? Would
you wish in your heart that He’d wait until you had [fill in the blank] ?
14. Considering how steep it was...; 15.
Other desires might clamor...
After you’ve forgiven others from
your heart and repented with “clean
hands and pure heart,” your
whole surroundings seem to change. What once appeared
terrifying is now easy because of your unwavering desire to
please the Shepherd. Isn’t it amazing what love will do
to motivate us?
Consider Much-Afraid’s new resolve
to “love the Shepherd and to do what he tells me.”
It’s so important that love for our Lord be our
motivation to obey Him. Otherwise, obedience becomes the goal
rather than love being evidenced by His work in and through us.
Revisit Stipulation #4 for the Father to ratify the Covenant
with you in “The Gospel of
the Covenant is the Pilgrimage to Salvation.” How forceful and determined are you in your
relationship with the Lord?
Are you past the point in the pilgrimage
where you are no longer concerned with what He will do for you?
Have you found yourself only concerned with Him and His
presence in your life?
Only when you key in on walking in
obedient trust because of your love for Him can you truly be
concerned with the eternal outcome of others around you. Your
love for God compels you to want others to experience the same
Much-Afraid desired with her whole will to please the Shepherd. Have you given much thought to how pleased our
Lord is when you walk according to His purposes? Sadly, some
confuse pleasing God with trying to earn His acceptance. There is nothing we could do to
earn our Father’s love. However, pleasing Him is a
wonderful expression of gratefulness for His loving Lordship in
Much-Afraid next has a wonderful
revelation that is powerful and relative for any pilgrim to the
High Places to grasp. We are told, “All the time it is suffering to love
and sorrow to love.” An old adage agrees:
“Those you love the most will hurt you the most.”
Suffering and hurt are both a part of loving someone.
You can go through life guarding yourself
against further hurt by those you love, and they’ll never
feel as though they’re of any value to you. Or, you can
place every hurt on an altar of repentance for your bitterness,
and ask our Lord to help you love even more. Only by casting
off all hindrances to love can you keep your relationships
growing in loving union. Without that freedom to love without
reserve, you drive in emotional wedges that will eventually
destroy those relationships.
There is a song we both like that captures
our Lord’s desire for personal intimacy with us. It is
More than the water I love the Fountain
More than the warmth I love the Flame
More than green pastures I love the
More than my life I love Your Name
So here I am take my life and glorify Your
More than love I want the Lover
More than the gift I want the Giver
More than the healing I want the Healer
More than this song You want the singer
So here I am, take my life, and glorify
by J.R Vassar, © 1999 Curiosly Strong
When you think about heaven or
hell, do you think in terms of getting people
‘saved”, or with helping them experience grateful
relational intimacy with our Father and His Son, Jesus?
Followers of Jesus are called to
obey His commands. Which commands is He referring to? How would
you know if your life was pleasing to our Father?
16. The next surprising thing...17.
Strange enough...; 18. Also, they sang continually...
The Valley of Loss could as accurately be
described as “The Valley of Heavenly Peace.” In
order to have made it this far, a lot of baggage has had to be
left behind. But not only have you had to discard that which
was holding you back in your devotion to Jesus, you’ve
also needed to discover a whole new way of relating to Him!
Isn’t this what Jesus is speaking of when He tell
us, “If anyone would come
after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For
whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it” (Matthew
People who have followed Jesus to the High
Places have seen their concern for others grow in leaps and
bounds. Think of this as a proverb:
The more you die to yourself,
the more you‘re able to know
and understand others personally;
and meet their needs
as Jesus would meet them.
In this part of the Canticle we rejoice in
the wonder of being attached to the Vine, and of the
Beloved’s work to prepare His tree to bear much fruit:
“And this will be — when all of me is pruned and purged with fire.
And where thy choicest fruit tree grows, Thy pruning knife now wield.”
Cutting away the selfish carnal nature is
painful, even when done by those the Shepherd has put in our
lives. These “pruning instruments” have the right
and the responsibility to expose those areas of our hearts that
are unlike Jesus. Yet when your heart is at peace, neither
sorrow nor suffering will disrupt your contentment.
Much-Afraid’s presence in the Valley
of Loss hasn’t changed but she has, to the extent that
her companions now evoke joy in her. She was learning that
being at rest in the Shepherd’s will is far more
important to her spiritual growth than struggling to reach an
How well do you really know those
who are close to you? Do they feel comfortable revealing their
inner self to you?
Are you willing to forsake any
self-will or preference as far as it concerns God’s will
for you? How hard is it for you to be content?
19. It is true...; 20. All this seemed a
You’ll know you have true peace when
you don’t care where our Lord is leading you, as long as He is leading.
But make sure you don’t “spiritualize” His
leadership. Our Lord generally puts people in our lives who
have been given authority of some sort over us to teach us the
freedom and boundaries of godly living. They are His
instruments of refinement! Don’t announce that
you’re walking in obedient trust in Jesus if you rebel
against your husband, father or boss!
So many of us are steeped in an
“outcome-based” world system. But in your journey
with Jesus, you don’t get points for finishing your race
quickly. It’s not a competition against others, but a
lifelong trip of casting off the old and putting on the new.
The process of your growth in Christ-likeness impacts
so many others around you. Whereas they knew you as [selfish,
lazy, hot-tempered, irritable], you are now [kind, gentle,
helpful, serving]. When others see such amazing changes and you
give testimony to the intervention of Jesus in your life, He
gets the praise and the glory!
Changes in character get noticed!
Dorothy, in “The Wizard of
Oz”, epitomizes the worldly viewpoint: She couldn’t
wait for the yellow brick road to get her to the destination.
Winnie the Pooh, on the other hand, sees his life journey as a
chance to taste the honey and smell the flowers. Do you see the
difference? True repentance brings such peace that worldly
concerns and outcomes lose their hold on us.
Remember, Jesus is Immanuel, “God with us.” His presence through your repentance and desire
to live righteously will always produce love, peace, joy, and
heartfelt exuberant worship.
Where is your mind most often
throughout the day? In the past? In the future? Or, in the now?
What changes may you have to make?
Do the words “content”
and “at peace” apply to you? Ask those close to
you... What changes may you have to make?
If you’ve “died to self”
on the way to the High Places, a visit to the Valley of Loss
will not devastate you. Dying to self also means forsaking
expectations. If you expect nothing to go a particular way,
then you’ll appreciate it when it does, and not regret
when it doesn’t.
Because Much-Afraid was willing to die to
her dream of arriving at her goal, she was able to walk
peacefully away from the High Places in contentment that the
Shepherd was with her.
If you’re having a difficult time
fully trusting our Lord with something, you’ll appreciate
an axiom I first observed during Sue’s and my 11-year
If you are going to sweat something, then God
is going to cause you to sweat it.
For example, when people habitually sweat
financial problems, God adds to their financial problems. His
goal is a heart change in which they’ll gratefully shift
the burdensome weight to Him. Once again, Psalms encourage our
trust: “Unload your burden on
the Lord, and He will sustain you. He will never permit the
righteous to be moved” (Psalm
While the Shepherd’s face reflected
wonderful compassion, there was also “unflinching
determination” toward Much-Afraid. Picture our Lord
looking at you and saying, “The
good work I have begun in you, [your
name], I will carry it on to
completion until the day you see Me face-to-face.” He doesn’t give up on us who
continue to follow Him!
Is there any concern you
can’t put to rest? What is it? Who have you talked to
about it who will pray with you to come to peace in that
Are you able to be content just to
trust that He’s walking in your situation with you, even
if the door has shut on a precious dream?
24. When she realized that...; 25. When
she remembered this...
To complete the rest of the journey to the
High Places will cost you the complete loss of worldly pursuits
and death to yourself — not as a self-flagellating martyr
but as a trusting son or daughter who knows that His way is the
only path to Life. Our Lord has already determined that He is
transforming you to be like Him. You can help yourself in the
process by studying and applying His Word, and by cooperating
with Him in the things He wants to change in you.
Our Shepherd is preparing each of us as
His bride — a perfect bride. Make it easy for both Him and you
to be transformed!
Much-Afraid reacted with a pang of
fear when she realized that the Shepherd would be doing still
more in her heart. How does the idea of His
“determination to allow nothing blemished or unworthy to
remain in the beloved” impact your thoughts about the