Progress Going Nowhere

pct Pinchot National ForestWhile walking along a long winding path deep in the forest, its canopy providing the perfect barrier to the sun, I feel nervous.  I can’t see past the winding curves that are filled with overflowing floras & low-hanging branches.  It seems that I have plodded the trail for a long time now, occasionally tripping on the bare root of a massive fir.  It can be dark & the way seems unending and full of switchbacks; it is all back and forth, over and over.  Life feels a lot like this sometimes; our own life can be a mystery of switchbacks.  My heart sighs,  Lord, still?  How long?  I am tired.  I know for certain that I have no more strength left for this.  Still?  I reflect  back on the road traveled.  Heart bent over with the weight of pressing burdens.  Weary tears are difficult to hold back; and, like a child, I whine, “Are we there yet?”.

The Word whispers, “Hold up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not.” (Psalm 17:5, KJV).
!.  Who? God.
2. What? Hold up my goings.
3. When? Present tense.
4. Where? In thy paths.
5. Why? That my footsteps slip not.
Are you saying, Lord, that I must learn to trust you without knowing every step, to trust you to hold onto me and to keep me on your path?  

In his book Spiritual Rhythm, Mark Buchanan pens,  “Winter shames those in it.  It feels like failure, something we’ve caused, or missed, or faltered in.  . . . And most people around us don’t help.  They pep-talk us.  They serve up warmed-over platitudes.  They scold us or offer useless advice.  They hold themselves up as examples of how to beat the winter blahs. . . . ” In ancient days, Job had a similar response to his friends lack of understanding, “You pretend to tell me what’s wrong w/my life, but treat my words of anguish as so much hot air.” (The Message). Sitting in the long church pew, I hear my seasoned pastor caution, “It is very easy to say more than you know.” The words are poignant, pregnant with truth.  I need this heart of wisdom.  Then I remember the One whose footsteps I follow, for my gentle Savior has already cleared the path with meekness & gentleness, “a bruised reed He will not break.”  Teach me to use words to heal & to bless, to be gentle with others as I meet them on their journey, to embrace them during their suffering, to listen boldly with love, to pray silent more than I talk loud.

Mount-Hood-Oregon-USA-Photography-by-Andrew-Studer-@Studercinema.-OurPlanetDaily

My feet have tread uncertainly through misty, dark valleys of fear & failings, meandered through lush mountain valleys only to head up sharply on rocky steep crags that seem to go nowhere.  My pastor Scott Reavely states a simple, hopeful truth:   “You can make progress
going nowhere.”

I get his meaning as he speaks of learning my God in my goings. “Andrew StuderGod dwells in shadows and in pits, and in the skin of all who seek and reach, brazenly bold to those with eyes to see,” writes Ann Voskamp.  O, God, I fear I know You too little.  I am  afraid that I am still unable to conceive of how magnanimous Your goodness, of Your mercies freshly birthed each morning, of Your heart that swells with pity for Your child. Give me great faith to cast away doubts & speedily run to You in my need.  I will  praise Your name; for Your great arms hold me close.

Yes, all that our Father plans is far greater than we could have ever guessed, for He chooses to surprise us through the pain with Himself, unveiled, revealed & intimately known. Author Paul Tripp writes, ”Whatever plans God’s people made and however they tried to figure out God’s plans, they were constantly greeted with surprises. They faced turns in the story that they never would have anticipated. God’s plan again & again included things that would not have been in the story if his people had been doing the planning.” I hope that behind a frowning providence you might begin to see the glimpses of a smiling face . . . God’s gracious rescue of surprise.”  And my pastors words ring out true in agreed harmony, “Don’t oversimplify suffering or God.”

O my God, show me Yourself!
“Shew it to my intellect, & remove my ignorance;
shew it to my heart, & revive my gratitude;
shew it to my faith, & renew my confidence;
shew it to my experience, & deliver me from all my fears,”
wrote C. H. Spurgeon in The Treasury of David.

Psalm 31-v-14-15

The Psalmist declares, “My times are in Your hands,” and Spurgeon meditates on the safety of being held by those scarred hands, “The Lord Jesus loved me, and gave himself for me, and my times are in those hands which were nailed to the cross for my redemption.” I slowly embrace knowing my times are in His hands, for my soul has longed for that “safe place” where power, justice, goodness, & everlasting love cohabit.  There is sweet consolation in His living nearness which flows through me warming me with His undeserved attention, steadfast love, and the strong assurance that He knows the way.

Affliction may refine, but cannot waste
That heart wherein my love is fixed fast.

 ~Francis Quarles.

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