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Joy Embraces Sorrow

During a Defiant Joy Bible Study, we were talking about Joy and Sorrow. As soon as I saw the title of this chapter, it reminded me of a book I’ve read a couple of times called, “Hinds Feet on High Places,” by Hannah Hurnard.

It’s an allegory, or a story that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning or moral. I love allegories! Pilgrim’s Progress is another great one. But, in Hinds Feet on High Places, “Much Afraid” is the main character. That’s her name, “Much Afraid.” She meets the Great Shepherd, and chooses to follow him to get away from her home in the Valley of Humiliation and her relatives, the Fearings. She must go through many trials and tribulations in order to reach the High Places where she will be free from her deformities and everything that holds her back.

Early in her journey, the Great Shepherd gives Much Afraid two companions to help her. They are a little creepy in appearance and she is filled with dread to learn their names. The Great Shepherd introduces them to her like this,

“They are good teachers; indeed, I have few better. As for their names, I will tell you them in your own language, and later you will learn what they are called in their own tongue. This,” said He, motioning toward the first of the silent figures,” is named Sorrow. And the other is her twin sister, Suffering.” Poor Much-Afraid! Her cheeks blanched and she began to tremble from head to foot. She felt so like fainting that she clung to the Shepherd for support. “I can’t go with them,” she gasped. “I can’t! I can’t! O my Lord Shepherd, why do You do this to me? How can I travel in their company? It is more than I can bear. You tell me that the mountain way itself is so steep and difficult that I cannot climb it alone. Then why, oh why, must You make Sorrow and Suffering my companions? Couldn’t You have given Joy and Peace to go with me, to strengthen me and encourage me and help me on the difficult way? I never thought You would do this to me!” And she burst into tears…

…Sorrow and Suffering had always seemed to her the two most terrifying things which she could encounter…

But the Great Shepherd encourages her…“Fear not, Much-Afraid, only believe. I promise that you shall not be put to shame. Go with Sorrow and Suffering, and if you cannot welcome them now, when you come to the difficult places where you cannot manage alone, put your hands in theirs confidently and they will take you exactly where I want you to go.”

The rest of the story is the harrowing journey of Much Afraid, Sorrow and Suffering traveling through danger and darkness and lots of enemies who try to take them out.

Spoiler alert, I’m about to give away the end of the story, but I still encourage you to get it and read it. There is so much in this little book, I can’t recommend it enough!

By the end of the book, Much Afraid finally makes it to the High Places and is transformed. And she is given a new name, “Grace and Glory.” Much to her surprise, Sorrow and Suffering are transformed as well. They are also given new names. Can you guess what they are? Joy and Peace! The companions she begged the Great Shepherd for when he first introduced her to Sorrow and Suffering.

What Much Afraid learned through traveling with Sorrow and Suffering is invaluable information that can help carry us through our difficult journeys in real life. What looks like Sorrow and Suffering to us now will one day be revealed to us as Joy and Peace. And they will take us exactly where the Great Shepherd wants us to go!

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