Friday, August 27, 2010

The Valley of Transformation

A dear friend of mine recently gave me a book entitled, Hinds Feet on High Places. It is an allegorical novel by English author Hannah Hurnard, which she wrote in 1955. The story is about a young woman named Much-Afraid, and her journey away from her Fearing family and into the High Places of the Shepherd, guided by her two companions Sorrow and Suffering. It is an allegory of a Christian devotional life. The book takes its title from Habakkuk 3:19, "The Lord God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds' feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places."

I have only read about half of the book thus far, but it has already enraptured my soul. The main theme that keeps repeating is how the Lord uses suffering to bring us to the mountain top. I have come to realize in my own walk that I spend much more time in the valley than I do on the mountain top, and that is not because the Lord is some type of sadist that enjoys watching us suffer, but because it is only in the valley that He can transform us into the image of His Son.

C.S. Lewis, the great Christian apologist, once said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, but shouts to us in our pain.” Perhaps it is just human nature but for whatever reason we seem to listen more intently when we are suffering. Our Savior, of course, is not a stranger to suffering either as the the prophet Isaiah describes Him as, “A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” (Isaiah 53:3) It is also within the realm of suffering that God comes into full view. It seems to be most often His modus operandi for revealing Himself to us. 

When the Apostle Paul was knocked off his horse and blinded on the road to Damascus, the Spirit of the Lord appeared to Ananias and told him that he was to put his hands on Paul to restore his sight. Ananias was confused, of course, given Paul had been persecuting Christians during this time, prompting Ananias to ask the Lord why He would use such a man for His work. Now listen to the Lord’s reply, “Go [go and find Paul], for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake” (Acts 9:15-16, italics are mine). The great Apostle Paul, who has written one third of our New Testament canon, was commissioned by God to suffer. Why? Because it was through his suffering that the gospel was going to move forward to the outermost parts of the world and in the process, Paul was going to become more like Christ.

So, what effect did this have on Paul? Look at his summation of his sufferings in Philippians 3:7-8, “But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.” Pretty powerful, I know. Paul looks at all the he has lost and suffered and sees it all as rubbish because he has gained Christ.

God’s number one purpose in our lives as Christians is for us to be completely satisfied with Him ... just Him. It is in this realm of complete abandonment that we reach the mountain top for Jesus Christ IS the mountain top. Even when we are deep in the valley, when we are abiding in Him, He “shall renew our strength and mount us up with the wings like an eagle and we will run and not be weary and walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)

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