It was a long hike. I had veered off the gravel road that ribboned across the mountain valley and chose a trail created by the multitude of deer that grazed this land.
My breathing was a bit labored as I hoisted myself onto the rocky ledge overlooking the river below. I bent over with hands on my knees to catch my breath, only to lose it again once I raised up and took in the glorious sight below.
Sunshine glimmered across the river in the alcoves where the flow was serene. Ferns blanketed the banks in the shadows of hemlocks, pine, and oak. Hills rose and fell, sculpting the land all the way to the summit on which we stood.
It was absolutely beautiful.
Again, the view was glorious.
But the details were obstructed from the distance — the muddy briar patches where shoes squished and legs were torn with bloody scratches were there in the midst of the beauty, but we couldn’t see them from the heights.
Such is life.
We journey with as much bravado as we can muster, always searching, always striving, always working our way toward the heights. And when we achieve the heights, it’s easy to look back and see only beauty. Not that that’s a bad thing, but sometimes our own need for glory causes us to forget the muddy briar patches where the Lord lifted us and carried us as a man carries his son through the wilderness.*
Sometimes we need to take time to remember …
Samuel did that.
Israel had drifted from God because of the relentless battles from the Philistines that had gone on for decades creating quite the muddy briar patch. Many had taken on the ways of the world, worshiping gods other than Almighty God.
They were weary from the battles and worn from the perilous journey.
And then, God stirred within them.
They began to lament their sinful, selfish ways that caused them to separate from God during the difficult places rather than run to Him for strength and grace to endure.
They had forgotten who they were.
But now the children of God were beginning to remember and they longed to reunite with the Lord.
“Samuel spoke to all the house of Israel saying, ‘If you return to the Lord with all your hearts, then put away the foreign gods from among you, and prepare your hearts for the Lord, and serve Him only; and He will deliver you from the hand of the Philistines.’ So the children of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtoreths, and served the Lord only.” ~ 1 Samuel 7:3-4
God restored His children unto Himself. He led them in battle and defeated their enemy, the Philistines. And then Samuel did and said something that is vital to our faith journeys:
“Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, and called its name Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us.'” ~ 1 Samuel 7:12
… Thus far the Lord has helped us …
Right there in a “muddy briar patch” in the midst of a barren desert place, Samuel basically said, “We must remember and declare the goodness and faithfulness of our God!”
Thus far He has helped us, and He won’t stop helping us now.
I surveyed the valley below with a long, searching look and remembered. I remembered the time I fell into a dark, dark pit and God rescued me, lifting me back into the light.
I remembered when I was tattered and bleeding from the battle that sought to destroy me, but God in His mighty power defended me and defeated the enemy.
I remembered when I was too tired to go on and I was a soggy mess from torrents of tears, and He held me, wiping the tears and reminding me that I belonged to Him.
He had brought me safe thus far and I know that by His grace He will continue to walk this journey with me, leading me safely to the other side.
He will do the same for you.
Thank you so much for stopping by. I would love for you to share what’s on your heart in the comments below. Scroll a little farther down and you’ll see where you can leave your comments. Together, we can find the nearness of God in our darkest moments.
Sweet blessings to you,
Congratulations to Tammy Dotson!
Tammy is December’s winner of an autographed copy of The Perils of a Pastor’s Wife. Thank you, Tammy, for being part of our family of subscribers.
Thank you for this wonderful thought-provoking message today, Nan, as I too reflect that God NEVER turns His back on us….He loves us into eternity! God Bless you…real good!!
Awww… thanks for the blessing, Jo-Ann. Just what I needed today. Ain’t God grand?
God is so so good. His faithfulness is everlasting. Thank you for this reminder.
You are so welcome. I think we all need to be reminded of how far the Lord has brought us and the myriad of ways He has helped us along the journey. Bless you, my sweet friend.
This is timely for me, dear Nan. Thank you.
Blessings ~ Wendy
Oh Wendy, I’m so thankful this message ministered to you. You are not alone in your struggle. Many are praying. Find comfort in the knowledge that God is El Roi: the God who sees you and knows all about it. Love you sweet friend.