I have tread the stony paths of grief more than once in my life.
Can I confess, again?
I never saw any redeeming value in these paths until very recently. Grief to me was always something to be avoided at best, or impatiently endured; gutting it out at it’s worst. I wanted to move swiftly through it; to just get it over with and be done; focusing on the finish line while ignoring the journey itself.
I mean, who thinks pain has any redeeming good?
We are taught in our Western Culture to abhor grief.
Grief is seen as something with no redeeming value, and we treat it as if it were a freakish and unwelcome enemy, when actually the very opposite is true.
I know, how could grief be a friend?
I was first introduced to this idea when I read the allegory, Hinds Feet On High Places.
In Hurnnard’s story, the heroine, Little Miss “Much-Afraid” is longingly dreaming of leaving her home, The Valley of Humiliation, and going to the beautiful and majestic High Places. She is a member of the Fearing Family, and her bullying and unkind relatives torment her at their every opportunity, especially her cousin Craven-Fear.
Much-Afraid has recently given her heart to The Chief Shepherd, who mostly lives in the High Places, and Much-Afraid longs to go there to be with Him, but has little hope of ever making the difficult journey because her feet are crippled and she often stumbles.
She is convinced that visiting The High Places is only a distant and hopeless dream.
Well, I won’t spoil the story for you. If you haven’t read the book, suffice it to say, I recommend it highly. It uses wonderful imagery to portray many of the difficult realities in our discipleship journey.
I bring it up here, solely to make this point.
In the story, Much-Afraid finds the courage to ask the Shepherd to help her journey to The High Places, and He grants her request.
To make sure she gets there safely, He gives her two traveling companions: one named Sorrow, the other named Suffering.
The first time I read the book I thought, “What! What kind of love is that?” She asks to go to The High Places so that she can be healed, and thereby transformed. And so, The Shepherd gives her these two “friends” Sorrow and Suffering?
Most of us find this idea repulsive.
Recoiling in shock, or fear and anger, when we are introduced to these traveling companions with grief as our teacher?
Why would God do such a thing?
Perhaps, it is because we pray to be changed… transformed? To become more like Jesus?
So God agrees, takes us at our words, and answers our prayers.
Unexpectedly, we are introduced to “…the fellowship of His (Jesus) sufferings” and because we are, we wail and rail against a God, who would allow such painful things to happen to us!
So I’ll ask again, “Why do we believe these songs of lament will never be ours to sing?”
God gives us the truth via our Bibles; spells it out for us.
His unchanging and ultimate goal is to remake us into the image of His Son… by any means, at any cost.
Have I not told you the witness of two is true?
What does the 73rd psalm tell you? “…you are holding my right hand… my health fails; my spirits droop, yet, God remains! He is the strength of my heart.”
And My word in Isaiah 41?
Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. [vs. 10]
Come, I see you struggling with doubt and fear.
You think, “I am alone.”
You are not. I AM here, with you.
Not for one second since all this began have you been alone. Although, I know, many times you felt as though you were.
Ah, those feelings of yours! They sometimes lead you a merry chase!
But I wouldn’t have you without them.
No, no! I want you to bring them with you when you come to Me. Always, but you lead the way… the feelings will follow.
Meanwhile, keep those lovely eyes… (Oh, those eyes!) Keep them on Me!
I AM present child. The difficulties, the heartbreak, will pass. I remain. Everything, every. thing. you are going through, is preparing you. Do not reject your teachers. Do not fear them.
I AM upholding you with My victorious right hand.
(I AM here little one.)
You may stumble…
You may even fall…
But I have your hand.
And this, so that I may know Him [experientially, becoming more thoroughly acquainted with Him, understanding the remarkable wonders of His Person more completely] and [in that same way experience] the power of His resurrection [which overflows and is active in believers], and [that I may share] the fellowship of His sufferings, by being continually conformed [inwardly into His likeness even] to His death [dying as He did];
Philippians 3:10 AMP