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Find the Unendurable Endurable
All the passages below are taken from Elisabeth Elliot’s book “Secure in the Everlasting Arms,” published in 2002.
Before his death Moses blessed the twelve tribes of Israel. To Asher he said, "Thy shoes shall be iron and brass; and as thy days, so shall thy strength be" (Deuteronomy 33:25, KJV). How deeply the Lord set that promise into my heart on New Year's Day, 1973. My second husband, Addison Leitch, was to report on January 2 to the radiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. His worst fear had come upon him. His first wife had died of cancer, his father had died of prostate cancer. Add had been diagnosed in October not only with cancer of the prostate but also with an unrelated but virulent cancer of the lip. As we came from the doctor's office on that day in 1972, he quoted Gray's Elegy: "The curfew tolls the knell of parting day."
New Year's Day is a good time to fix one's eyes on the only One who knows what the year is to hold. What is going to happen? What shall we do? Thomas a Kempis' Imitation of Christ has a lovely story about a monk who was anxious about his salvation. Christ spoke to him from the Cross: "If you knew that all was well, what would you today do, or stop doing? When you have found the answer, do it, or stop doing it." One must always get back to the practical and definite.
There is something marvelously sustaining about the knowledge that Thomas a Kempis and Samuel Rutherford and Amy Carmichael and Moses and the people of Israel and Mary and Joseph and countless hosts of others have suffered and feared and trusted and been carried through in the same Everlasting Arms that hold us. And so, on that New Year's Day as I was imagining what that year might hold, I took that promise of "shoes of iron."
We shall be given shoes of iron. We shall find the unendurable endurable, the impossible possible. The natural processes of change and decay may be unexpectedly retarded to enable us to travel where no roads are visible, no replenishing available. The Lord is the one who travels every mile of the wilderness way as our leader, cheering us, supporting and supplying and fortifying us. Not all God's children, I suppose, have iron shoes---only the ones who need them! Lord, Thou knowest what we need.
I prayed then for four things: healing for Add, peace of heart for both of us, grace to help in time of need, and a fixed trust in God. The answer to the first was No. To the second it was, far more than I had had faith to expect, Yes. Grace and trust were always given according to my willingness to receive. There were many times "when my heart was grieved," as the psalmist wrote (Psalm 73). "I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you. Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."
My goal is God Himself---not joy, nor peace
Nor even blessing, but Himself, my God.
‘Tis His to lead me there, not mine, but His---
"At any cost, dear Lord, by any road!"
So faith bounds forward to its goal in God
And love can trust her Lord to lead her there;
Upheld by Him, my soul is following hard,
Till God hath full fulfilled my deepest prayer.
No matter if the way be sometimes dark,
No matter though the cost be oft-times great,
He knoweth how I best shall reach the mark---
The way that leads to Him must needs be strait.
One thing I know, I cannot say Him nay;
One thing I do, I press towards my Lord:
My God my glory here from day to day,
And in the glory there my Great Reward.
To reread a journal that one wrote decades ago is a surprisingly faith-strengthening experience. There, amid all the exigencies and vicissitudes of life, one can trace the unbroken thread of the utter faithfulness of God---the measure of grace to help in time of need, unexpected kindness and help of many whom one knew, the physical strength needed to do what needed to be done, the spiritual renewal that came from the Father's continual pouring out of those mercies which He promised "endure forever," great mercies, and also some so small, so heartbreakingly sweet---my brother Tom coming often to sit with Add and to talk with me; Betty Lee sending me a bottle of bubblebath ("You must be tired---have a long, leisurely soak"); my dear friend Van calling to say, "It'll be all right, Bet. It'll be OK" (a contemporary version of Julian of Norwich: All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well). C.S. Lewis speaks of being happy when his wife, Joy, was desperately ill and he himself screaming with the pain of osteoporosis---evidence that a brooding Providence is keeping all things under His control, as Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote in "The Golden Echo": "far with a fonder care kept than we could have kept it."
If today you look into the year ahead with deep forebodings, remember the God of Elisha. The king of Aram sent horses and chariots and a strong force to Dothan to capture him. Elisha's servant saw the king's chariots and horses surrounding the city and wailed, "Oh, my lord, what shall we do?"
"Don't be afraid," the prophet answered. "Those who are with us are more than those who are with them." Then he prayed, asking God to open the eyes of the servant. "He looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha (2 Kings 6:17).
Ours is the same God. There is in Him no variableness or even a shadow caused by turning. If it's iron shoes we need, they will be provided. If it's a touch, a word, a gift from a friend, it will be given. If God sees that the mountain should be filled with horses and chariots, He'll fill it. Ask Him to open your eyes to His lovingkindness and tender mercies. Ask Him to help you to trust Him for tomorrow.
`Almighty God, we bless and praise Thee that we have wakened to the light of another earthly day; and now we will think of what a day should be. Our days are Thine, let them be spent for Thee. Our days are few, let them be spent with care. There are dark days behind us, forgive their sinfulness; there may be dark days before us, strengthen us for their trials. We pray Thee to shine on this day---the day which we may call our own. Lord, we go to our daily work; help us to take pleasure therein. Show us, clearly what our duty is; help us to be faithful in doing it. Let all we do be well done, fit for Thine eye to see. Give us strength to do, patience to bear; let our courage never fail. When we cannot love our work, let us think of it as Thy task; and by our true love to Thee, make unlovely things shine in the light of Thy great love. Amen." (George Dawson, 1821-1876) [21-25]
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