When I first read Hinds’ Feet on High Places, I read all through the night, every page of the allegory resonating with the broken bits of my life. And when I finally turned the last page of the allegory, I began the story straight away again, this time as a family reading aloud. Because the story of Much Afraid, and the challenges she faces, and how she keeps turning her heart toward her Shepherd, is one of the most powerful metaphors for life I have ever read. Reading the classic allegory that Hannah Hurnard wrote in 1955 from the green slopes of the Braunwald Alp in Switzerland — is life-transforming. Throughout the pages of her hauntingly profound allegory, Hurnard encourages readers to live in God’s radiant presence and forever let Him lead them to the still high places. And this new visual edition is not only breathtaking — I literally could not stop returning to these pages — it’s set to become a spiritual classic in its own right. It’s a deeply humbling grace to welcome the writings of Hannah to the farm’s front porch today…
Considering how steep it was, the descent down into the valley seemed surprisingly easy.
But perhaps that was because Much Afraid desired with her whole will to make it in a way that would satisfy and please the Shepherd.
The awful glimpse down into the abyss of an existence without Him had so staggered and appalled her heart that she felt she could never be quite the same again.
However, it had opened her eyes to the fact that right down in the depths of her own heart she really had but one passionate desire, not for the things which the Shepherd had promised, but for Himself.
All she wanted was to be allowed to follow Him forever.
Other desires might clamor strongly and fiercely near the surface of her nature, but she knew now that down in the core of her own being she was so shaped that nothing could fit, fill, or satisfy her heart but he Himself.
“Nothing else really matters,” she said to herself, “only to love Him and to do what He tells me. I don’t know quite why it should be so, but it is.
All the time it is suffering to love and sorrow to love, but it is lovely to love Him in spite of this, and if I should cease to do so, I should cease to exist.”
So, as has been said, they reached the valley very quickly.
The next surprising thing was that though the valley did seem at first a little like a prison after the strong bracing air of the mountains, it turned out to be a wonderfully beautiful and peaceful place, very green and with flowers covering the fields and the banks of the river which flowed quietly through it.
Strangely enough, down there in the Valley of Loss, Much Afraid felt more rested, more peaceful, and more content than anywhere else on the journey.
It seemed, too, that her two companions also underwent a strange transformation. They still held her hands, but there was neither suffering nor sorrow in the touch. It was as though they walked close beside her and went hand in hand simply for friendship’s sake and for the joy of being together . . .
. . . It is true that when Much-Afraid looked at the mountains on the other side of the valley she wondered how they would ever manage to ascend them, but she found herself content to wait restfully and to wander in the valley as long as the Shepherd chose.
One thing in particular comforted her; after the hardness and slipperiness of the way on the mountains, where she had stumbled and limped so painfully, she found that in those quiet green fields she could actually walk without stumbling, and could not feel her wounds and scars and stiffness at all.
All this seemed a little strange because, of course, she really was in the Valley of Loss.
Also, apparently, she was farther from the High Places than ever before.
She asked the Shepherd about it one day, for the loveliest part of all was that He often walked with them down there, saying with a beautiful smile that it was one of his favorite haunts.
In answer to her question He said, “I am glad that you are learning to appreciate the valley too, but I think it was the altar which you built at the top, Much Afraid, which has made it so easy for you.”
This also rather puzzled her, for she said, “But I have noticed that after the other altars which you told me to build, the way has generally seemed harder and more testing than before.”
Again He smiled, but only remarked quietly that the important thing about altars was that they made possibilities of apparent impossibilities, and that it was nice that on this occasion it had brought her peace and not a great struggle.
She noticed that He looked at her keenly and rather strangely as He spoke, and though there was a beautiful gentleness in the look, there was also something else which she had seen before, but still did not understand.
She thought it held a mixture of two things, not exactly pity — no, that was the wrong word, but a look of wonderful compassion together with unflinching determination.
When she realized that, she thought of some words which one of the Shepherd’s servants had spoken down in the Valley of Humiliation before ever the Shepherd had called her to the High Places.
He had said, “Love is beautiful, but it is also terrible — terrible in its determination to allow nothing blemished or unworthy to remain in the Beloved.”
When she remembered this, Much Afraid thought with a little shiver in her heart, “He will never be content until He makes me what He is determined that I ought to be,” and because she was still Much-Afraid and not yet ready to change her name —
she added with a pang of fear, “I wonder what He plans to do next, and if it will hurt very much indeed?”
This book is an absolute feast, for both the soul and the eyes, and a classic book for every library, to return to again and again.
Hannah Hurnard was born in 1905 in Colchester, England, to Quaker parents. She graduated from Ridgelands Bible College of Great Britain and spent four years training with an interdenominational faith mission and doing evangelistic work in England and Ireland. In 1932 she became an independent missionary and moved to Haifa, Israel, where she worked in a clinic and distributed Bibles. Of her many books, Hinds’ Feet on High Places remains her best known and most beloved. She died in 1990.
And, for the very first time, this beloved Christian allegory is a mixed-media special edition complete with charming watercolor paintings, antique tinted photography, meditative hand-lettered Scripture, and space to journal. As you read and connect with the story of Much-Afraid and her trials, the pages of this book become a canvas on which to chronicle your own story, struggles, and personal triumphs.
Available now at BN.com, Amazon.com or wherever books are sold. Really — a memorable gift to have on hand to give for anyone facing challenges.
…let me hear thy voice
[ Our humble thanks to Tyndale for their partnership in today’s devotion ]