The Forest of Darkness

by Bill Stough

Over thirty years had passed since I first began hiking these woods near our house with my then eight year old son, Ryan. This has always been a beautiful area on hills leading down to a creek between the rolling hills. Ryan and I enjoyed hiking in these places because of the exercise and outdoor experience. One particularly notable area he started calling the forest of darkness.

The forest of darkness was a grove of dense and tall cedar trees. Because the vegetation was so dense, sunlight did not readily shine through it and trudging through the area was difficult. Nonetheless, we went through that area many times as we headed for the creek. We became very familiar with that land.

Now here I was again, years later, hiking through the forest of darkness with two of Ryan’s children! Sophia, age six, and Ethan, age four, accompanied me as we hiked through those woods on our way to the creek below.

Ethan was scared as we entered that grove. He began to cling to me and at times physically grabbed hold of one of my legs. When not holding on to me, he kept looking at me so as to never let me out of his sight. He was scared and didn’t want to get lost. On one occasion he said “don’t leave me.” I, of course, would never even think of leaving him there. As long as he could see me and follow me all was okay.

Ethan was showing me something about how a true Christian should be. We can all learn something from his attitude on that day. We too are walking through a frightening place where it is possible to get lost and spiritually die.

“He led you through the vast and dreadful desert, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. He gave you manna to eat in the desert, something your fathers had never known, to humble and to test you so that in the end it might go well with you. You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’ But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today. (Deut. 8:15-18)”

It can be easy to forget what a dangerous walk we are involved in. When we were new to Christianity, we feared the possibility of falling and being left out of the kingdom of God.

Complacency can take hold and we no longer think about being bit by venomous snakes who inject poison into our spiritual bodies. Satan is compared to a snake and his demons are snake-like also. They can send fiery darts at us which enter our thinking and tempt us (Eph 6:10-16). How many times have we had ungodly thoughts and dwelled upon them, and not grasped that those were injected into us by venomous demons?

Can we remember how we used to worry whether we would fail as a Christian and lose it all? Do we still have that same fear of becoming lost like Ethan had?

My grandchildren would have become lost had they not known their need and were I not there to look after them. I knew the way through that forest and they did not. If we have only self-reliance we can’t make it. We also need someone to look after us.

“ Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Heb. 12:1-3)”

We do have someone who knows the ropes, who has been there in the woods before us, and who has shepherded an untold number of people through the great and terrible wilderness before us. And Jesus cares! He will no more walk off and leave our Father’s needy children than I would have left my grandchildren in the woods. God will never leave or forsake us (Heb 13:5). Notice what is said in Philippians 1:3-6.

“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

God won’t quit on us or leave us stranded in the woods, and we need to keep our eyes on him and be humble about knowing our need. There is so much we can learn from children!

“People were also bringing babies to Jesus to have him touch them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ (Luke 18:15-17)"

The Zondervan NIV Study Bible has this comment on verse 17 quoted above: “like a little child - with total dependence, full trust, frank openness, and complete sincerity.”

Little children are exactly that way! It is very moving to an adult to see that kind of trust, humility and dependence. It also moves God when we cast ourselves upon him and pray with fervency: “Don’t go off and leave me. I have a lot to be scared of in this forest.”




 

Volume 11 Issue 5 | Notes from Nancy | Women in Christ Commentary | Bible Study Guide | Abundance of the Heart | Exhortation | Book Review

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