One of my favorite allegories (the other being Pilgrim's Progress) is Hinds' Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard. "Much Afraid" travels to the high places with the help of the Shepherd, but the journey is not always smooth, and has difficult places along the way. For a few moments today I dipped into the book and re-read this part.
Much afraid awoke with the first light of dawn, and getting up, walked to the entrance of the cave. In the cold light of early morning she could not help telling herself that a scene of utter desolation lay before her. As far as the eye could see was nothing but empty plain and sea, with lowering cliffs above her and jagged rock below. The pleasant wooded country which they had left was out of sight , and in all the vast area upon which she looked she saw not a single tree and scarcely a stunted bush.
"How desolate," thought Much-Afraid, "and those rocks beneath look very cruel indeed, as if they are waiting to injure and destroy anything which falls upon them. It seems as though nothing can grow anywhere in all this barren waste."
Just then she looked up at the cliffs above her head and started with surprise and delight. In a tiny crevice of the rock, where a few drops from the trickling waterfall could occasionally sprinkle it, was a single plant. It had just tow or three leaves, and one fragile stem, almost hairlike in its slenderness, grew out at right angles to the wall. On the stem was one flower, blood red in color, which glowed like a lamp or flame of fire in the early rays of the sun.
Much-Afraid stared at it for some moments, noticing the wall which completely imprisoned it, the minute aperture through which it had forced its way to the light, and the barren loneliness of its surroundings. Its roots were clamped around by sheer rock, its leaves scarcely able to press outside the prison house, yet it had insisted on bursting into bloom, and was holding its little face open to the sun and burning like a flame of joy.
As she looked up at it Much Afraid asked, "What is your name, little flower, for indeed I never saw another like you." "My name is 'Bearing-the-Cost,' but some call me 'Forgiveness.' "
The flower went on to explain. "I have borne and have not fainted; I have not ceased to love, and Love helped me push through the crack in the rock until I could look right out onto my Love the sun himself. See now! There is nothing whatever between my Love and my heart, nothing around to distract me from him. He shines upon me and makes me to rejoice and has atoned to me for all that was taken from me and done against me. There is not a flower in the world more blessed than I...."
I love this picture of when our life seems difficult and barren. God's face still shines on us. There is less distraction from him. We find our joy in Him alone.