I've been posting some intense material in the last few weeks, which I think is hard to understand- sometimes it's hard for me to understand! So I want to give more background, which hopefully will allow for a broader perspective.
In the process of learning from Jesus, He pointed out to me something about His time on earth. There were times when Jesus was persecuted, but it wasn't His time to suffer, so He slipped away. For example, when those in His village were so incensed at Him that they tried to push Him off a cliff. It wasn't His time, so He slipped away through the crowd.
However, when it was time for His Passion, He set His face toward Jerusalem and walked toward it and through it. His disciples might well have asked themselves how could their Master who had calmed the very waves of the storm and who had before escaped, allow Himself to be taken, to suffer and to die? It wouldn't make sense.
But Jesus knew because He was following the Holy Spirit and Abba's instructions. Jesus knew when the time was to escape and when the time was to go through. No one else could have told Him this. This knowledge must come out of deep communion and trust with God.
In the same way, Jesus told me, there would be times when I would step aside from suffering and there would be times when I would go through it. I would not be able, on my own, to discern when those times were, but instead, I would have to trust Jesus entirely and follow Him trustingly. If I tried on my own, I would tend to either go to one extreme or the other- either accepting all suffering as my due, or trying and expecting to escape it all.
Looking back on my life, I can easily see how I have moved from one side to the other. In between, there is a narrow path. This path is the one that Jesus, as my Good Shepherd, leads me down and I am growing in my ability to trust Jesus and follow that path. Sometimes He is leading me beside the still waters and making me to lie down in the green pastures, and there He restores my soul.
But sometimes this path leads down through the dark valleys. He does not lead me around or over them- He leads me through them. In those times, I fear no evil- not because I have limitless faith or limitless strength- I have no fear because Jesus is with me. My faith and my strength is not in my self, it's in Him.
This is where His rod and His staff are especially comforting to me, because by them He keeps me closely be His side and I know that I am putting each step where I should. It is in this very place of suffering where Jesus provides a feast of Himself. He does this in the presence of my enemies.
This is similar to what Paul was saying here:
"The God who spoke light into existence, saying, “Let light shine from the darkness,” is the very One who sets our hearts ablaze to shed light on the knowledge of God’s glory revealed in the face of Jesus, the Anointed One.
But this beautiful treasure is contained in us—cracked pots made of earth and clay—so that the transcendent character of this power will be clearly seen as coming from God and not from us. We are cracked and chipped from our afflictions on all sides, but we are not crushed by them. We are bewildered at times, but we do not give in to despair. We are persecuted, but we have not been abandoned. We have been knocked down, but we are not destroyed. We always carry around in our bodies the reality of the brutal death and suffering of Jesus. As a result, His resurrection life rises and reveals its wondrous power in our bodies as well. For while we live, we are constantly handed over to death on account of Jesus so that His life may be revealed even in our mortal bodies of flesh."
-II Corinthians 4:6-11
In the midst of suffering and death, greater life is revealed. This is the work of Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit in our lives as we trust Him. We do not seek out suffering and we do not assume that every turn in the road will lead there- sometimes we will walk away from it and sometimes Abba will calm the storm.
Other times, we must set our face to go through, casting all our cares on God and trusting Him implicitly and completely with each step that we take as He guides us closely. When that time comes, we know that whatever we suffer, Jesus will bring great life and glory from it, and afterward He will anoint our heads with oil and fill our cup to overflowing. Goodness and mercy shall hunt us down to comfort and heal us and we will dwell in the God's house forever. So we are not afraid.
Perhaps because of my history, I've had to come to terms with suffering at an early and intense way, and I learned early on that after each time, I gained a treasure of insight, wisdom and compassion and so I began to ask Jesus please to send me hard things so I could continue to grow.
I began asking Him this from the time I was seventeen years old. At that age, I also began to hear the call of Jesus on my heart, and to understand His heart toward me. I wrote about this in my journal. How I understood this, I do not know, but I knew even then that if I stepped into that calling without deep spiritual maturity, disaster would loom, so I asked Jesus to humble and refine me as deeply and completely as possible so that I would never take spiritual pride over His calling on my life.
It is quite obvious that Jesus has been faithful and loving in answering that prayer. He continues to answer it and Jesus will be faithful to finish His work in my life and in yours as well, wherever He is leading you as He teaches you, loves you and guides you, whether it be in the green pastures or the dark valleys.
The Eternal is my shepherd, He cares for me always.
He provides me rest in rich, green fields
beside streams of refreshing water.
He soothes my fears;
He makes me whole again,
steering me off worn, hard paths
to roads where truth and righteousness echo His name.
Even in the unending shadows of death’s darkness,
I am not overcome by fear.
Because You are with me in those dark moments,
near with Your protection and guidance,
I am comforted.
You spread out a table before me,
provisions in the midst of attack from my enemies;
You care for all my needs, anointing my head with soothing, fragrant oil,
filling my cup again and again with Your grace.
Certainly Your faithful protection and loving provision will pursue me
where I go, always, everywhere.
I will always be with the Eternal,
in Your house forever.
Psalm 23, The Voice