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God walks the dark hills

When I was a child, my mother shared about her experience on a mission trip to Mexico. During that trip, years before I was born, she accompanied the pastor and a few others from her church. As they walked a steep hill, heading toward a distant village, they seemed to feel the burden of great spiritual oppression. The pastor enjoined them to sing “God walks the dark hills”.

My mother occasionally sang this song in the church we attended when I was a child. She was the song leader for many years. When I recall this memory, I can see her face and hear her voice. She sang as one with experience. She sang as one who knew God. She knew him imperfectly, but she recognized the appearance of his character in the Scriptures and in the lives of disciples of Christ.

A few days before she died, I told my mother how I cherished the memory of her telling me about singing in Mexico. She gave a weak smile. As we planned her funeral, she asked that we include this song. As the service began, the congregation heard the classic recording of Vestal Goodman singing “God walks the dark hills”.

Sometimes the hills are awfully dark. It especially seemed that way when my mother died: a great light was taken from my life. The pain of sin brings scars. The separation of death, the stench of decay, the sting of every failure: all these are signs of mankind’s waywardness from God. Yet, those who have been redeemed by the Lamb have hope beyond the toil of this life. We mourn not as those without hope. We rejoice that all shall be well in the kingdom of God.

God walks the dark hills. Christ shows us the way.

J.C. Ryle
Honoring God in sickness

I earnestly entreat all sick believers to remember that they may honour God as much by patient suffering as they can by active work. It often shows more grace to sit still than it does to go to and fro, and perform great exploits. I entreat them to remember that Christ cares for them as much when they are sick as He does when they are well, and that the very chastisement they feel so acutely is sent in love, and not in anger.

–J.C. Ryle in Sickness, Chapel Library, Pensacola, Florida (1998), 23-24.

John Calvin
Worthy causes of suffering

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28, ESV)

And thus Christian exhortations to endure suffering are of this sort: Whether we suffer poverty, exile, imprisonment, contempt, sickness, childlessness, or any such thing, let us remember that nothing happens apart from God’s pleasure and providence, and that God himself does nothing that isn’t perfectly in order. What then? Don’t our innumerable and frequent faults deserve more severe and weighty punishments that those that He, according to His mercy, has placed on us? Isn’t it fair that our flesh be tamed and made familiar with the yoke in order to keep it from running wild with lust according to its natural disposition? Are God’s justice and truth not worthy causes to suffer for?

–John Calvin in A Little Book on the Christian Life, edited and translated by Aaron Clay Denlinger and Burk Parsons, Reformation Trust Publishing, Sanford, Florida (2017), 83-84.