One of my favorite books is Hinds Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard. It’s the allegorical story of the journey of Much Afraid, with the Shepherd, from the Valley of Humiliation to the High Places. While there are things I disagree with in the book (mainly how Songs of Songs is used), I can very much relate to Much Afraid’s journey and as such, I find it quite encouraging to read. Late this afternoon, I was re-reading certain chapters that relate to things I’m going through and afterwards I noted how altars are used in the book.  After or during each hard place that the Shepherd brings Much Afraid to and through, she usually builds an altar. The altars are used either to sacrifice something (i.e. Much Afraid’s will, etc.) or to be used as a memorial of something that the Shepherd had taught her.  Last night was a breaking point for me in regards to some things. I’ve been struggling with trusting God in regards to my friendships with close friends back in the States (since I can only communicate with them through e-mail or chatting or calling and I so much just want to be with my close friends in person). I realized that it was because I was afraid if I let go of those friendships and placed them in God’s hands, then He might let us grow apart.Thinking and praying about that brought tears; after crying myself into an exhaustion, I realized that I had to just place my friendships in God’s hands and trust. Trust that whatever He brings about in them is good because He is always good and His plan is perfect. It’s scary, but it’s also incredibly comforting since I know that me thinking that I could keep my friendships together by being “in control” of them was all just an illusion. I can’t do anything on my own.

With all of these realizations (though I already knew all of them — but I didn’t really know them), I essentially wanted an altar. I wanted to submit it all to Jesus and say, “From here on out, I will trust You completely with everything.” As a very dear friend noted when I was telling her about it, it’s because I hate unresolved things. And she’s right. I wanted this whole thing to be resolved, neat, and tidy. But I realized that can’t be — because humans are messy. This has to be an every day, every hour, every moment decision to trust Jesus with everything, no matter what. Due to being inherently sinful apart from Jesus, and having my old man constantly warring against my new man, I can’t expect to just be perfect in this area (or any area) from this day onward.

Yet I wonder if the mindset of thinking we must have “altars” of a sort in our Christian walks is why many people get discouraged and disheartened in their relationships with Jesus. They subconsciously think, “Oh, I’ve sacrificed my will now; it shouldn’t be a bother any longer,” but lo and behold, the next morning it rears its ugly head and they wonder what happened.

In Romans 7, Paul tells of his struggle with sin — one that I’m sure every follower of Jesus can relate to:

For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do….For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me….For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. – Romans 7:15, 18-20, 22-25

It’s constant war. In you. Between good and evil, light and dark. Shaun Groves has a song entitled “Twilight” and the first verse echoes this truth:

Like the sky before the dawn
While the night is holding on

Sun and moon together in the gray
So my soul is shared by two

The worst of me, the best of You

Saint and sinner mingle in my veins
And I pray You’ll end this twilight

Yes, it’s twilight — one that is hopefully every day becoming more light than dark. But it won’t be completely light until we’re finally Home. And by making “altars” at key points in our spiritual lives we can feed the lie that after this breaking point,we won’t ever struggle with this particular sin again. Granted, that particular struggle hopefully taught you something and drew you closer to Jesus, but chances are, that temptation will come up again. And again. And again.

And the only way to combat it is to constantly be coming back to Jesus every time. Broken, needy, hopeless without Him. The only way we can fight anything is through Him, for in our weakness, He is strong. Without Jesus, we can do nothing.

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” ~John 15:5


  1. Visionary_Maiden says:

    Altars….what a post. I needed this today, as I whispered and waved good-bye to the dear young man in my life…watched his car drive down the road, knowing that tomorrow we’ll be almost 800 miles away…wondering why we have to live so far apart…I read this and was reminded…to lay my love, my heart, my desires on the altar and simply bow my heart to trust the King of Kings.

  2. Jessica, thanks for your encouragement and timely thoughts. : ) It is truth that I so need right now, maybe not in precisely the same situation, but the same process of letting go of fear and control.

  3. Thank you for letting me be part of this post. Honored.


  4. I don’t usually comment but I wanted to say thank you for your very encouraging post! I have been struggling intensely because one of my closest and dearest friends moved 600 miles away this month but during this time I have been learning about trusting God and giving my expectations to Him as well. Your post comforted me today.

    “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Corinthians 1:4-5

    Thank you for sharing the comfort and wisdom you have have been learning through your trial Jessica! May the Lord bless you and continue to be with you!


  5. thanks for reminder from Romans 7…….so true!

  6. I think you have an excellent point. I know I struggle with thinking I should be “over this” already when dealing with a sin over and over and over again.

    However, I do think ‘altars’ can be used in a way that’s helpful in this struggle, if they point to God’s grace instead of our triumph. “Here I raise my Ebenezer” as a sign that God has brought me through this trial before and that He will never fail me no matter how often I have to fight the same battle.

    Thank you for a post that captured my struggles right now.

  7. Thank you for this post. There is truth in it, and it was such an encouragement to me. I have often felt like a failure because my “altars” never seem to last forever. “Haven’t I been through this before?” I find myself saying constantly. “I thought I was over this.” So when the desire for a husband surfaces after I’ve resolved to leave it in God’s hands, and the loneliness ensues, I can do nothing but feel like an utter failure before God, which does nothing but drive me futher away from Him rather than nearer to Him in abandon and vulnerability.

    I will ponder this today.

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