Vale of TearsA Pilgrim Restored
A Pilgrim restored
By way of illustrating the power of yielding in the right way, I would like to introduce you to Leo Tolstoy’s moving story about Martin the Cobbler.
One freezing cold day, Martin, a seriously ailing man, is standing at his bench, forlornly plying his trade. His hale and hearty friend, Vladimir, walks past and invites him to join him in gathering wood for the winter festival, the cobbler rejects his advances angrily. Obsessed with the loss of his cherished young wife and his only child – a boy who was just reaching the age to have been of real help and companionship – Martin has no time for such frivolity.
On another day a pilgrim calls, asking him to rebind his Bible. Martin is despondent, but honest with him, and tells him that he blames God for leaving him with so little. “I am without hope,” he declares. “All I want of God is that I may die.”
The pilgrim looks at him kindly but keenly. “You are in despair, Martin, because you live only for yourself. Read the book; perhaps it may help.” With that he leaves, promising to pick it up when he returns from his journey.
That night, Martin dreams that the Lord speaks to him, telling him that He is going to visit him, and urges him to look out the window the following day. Martin works extra hard that day, but often takes the time to peer expectantly out of the window. He sees an aged street sweeper freezing in the cold and brings him indoors to feed and care for him. Later, he sees a young mother shivering in the cold and struggling to feed her baby. He brings them into the warmth, and when he discovers that she has pawned her shawl for food he takes a garment he has long treasured, his own wife’s shawl, and tenderly drapes it around her.
Others enter and leave the cobbler’s shop that day, and he helps them all, but still he sees no sign of the Lord. The old despair rises again. Why hasn’t He come? That is when the cobbler’s weary eyes are drawn to a verse in the pilgrim’s Bible: “Whatever you do to the least of these brothers and sisters, you are doing unto Me.”
In a flash of insight, Martin recognises that Christ has come – in the form of each person he has met and helped that day: the street sweeper, the mother and child, and all the others. When his friend Vladimir passes by again, the cobbler can’t wait to go out and join him. Healed of his grumpiness and despair, Martin has moved beyond his own grief and is ready to play his full part in the life of his community.25
Reflect and Pray
Tolstoy regarded this short story as being quite possibly his most important ever, because it demonstrated how God uses people with love in their heart to restore hope to those who have lost interest in life.
If you find yourself in the grip of unexpected loss, may I encourage you to remember some of the many intimate moments you will have shared with the Lord? He will not fail to heal your traumas as you call on His name – and to send you whatever help you need.
You are my servant. I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Lord, You say in Your word, “Fear not.”
I speak these powerful precious words now
to each and every area of my life that is gripped by fear.
Anchor of my soul, enable me
to weather every wave of anxiety,
actively entrusting it to You.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.