return, pray, live

by Elizabeth de Barros


I bless thee that I see the worst of my heart as well as the best of it,

that I can sorrow from those sins that carry me from thee,

that it is thy deep and dear mercy to threaten punishment so that I may

return, pray, live.

My sin is to look on my faults and be discouraged,

or to look on my good and be puffed up.

I fall short of thy glory every day by spending hours unprofitably,

by thinking that the things I do are good,

when they are not done to thy end,

nor spring from the rules of thy Word.

My sin is to fear what never will be;

I forget to submit to thy will, and fail to be quiet there.

But Scripture teaches me that thy active will

reveals a steadfast purpose on my behalf,

and this quietens my soul, and makes me love thee.

Keep me always in the understanding

that saints mourn more for sin than other men,

for when they see how great is thy wrath against sin,

and how Christ’s death alone pacifies that wrath,

that makes them mourn the more.

Help me to see that although I am in the wilderness

it is not all briars and barrenness.

I have bread from heaven,

streams from the rock,

light by day,

fire by night,

thy dwelling place and thy mercy seat.

I am sometimes discouraged by the way,

but though winding and trying it is safe and short;

Death dismays me, but my great high priest stands in its waters,

and will open me a passage,

and beyond is a better country.

While I live let my life be exemplary,

When I die may my end be peace.

—Shortcomings, The Valley of Vision


If things were always a straight shot, we might get to where we’re going a lot sooner. But no path is perfectly straight. God ordains the contours as well as the obstacles, both measured and beyond us, oftentimes perplexing, leaving us to scratching our heads, if not banging them.

Our questions do not threaten God, but He reserves the right to not answer them. And I don’t believe God seeks to frustrate us, unless, of course, we’re in need of frustrating. But what He does desire is that we depend on Him more fully — not just for forgiveness and eternal life, but for the everyday trudge, the totaled car, the failing grade, the betrayal of our bodies.

Nobody escapes this fallen world.

When the landscape is all drought and thorns, there’s water up ahead, otherwise He wouldn’t toughen the soles of the feet. Surely there’s grace for the path, the one that wends its way back to Him.