Hannah Hurnard (1905-1990)
1955 Christian Literature Crusade
My oldest sister was an avid reader throughout her short life. Once she established a relationship with a book, she couldn’t part with it. The walls of her home were literally lined with shelves of books that she read and re-read many times.
While I share my sister’s passion for reading, (inherited from our father), I recycle most of my books. I do have a couple shelves of books that I have a “relationship” with. However, I can’t seem to keep one of my favorite titles in stock. The lesson of this particular story is so powerful that I have given several copies away—mostly to women—with prayers that the message would impact the next person as much as it had me.
The book is Hinds Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard. Hannah published this best seller when she was fifty, which encourages this writer immensely. Hannah was raised as a Quaker and spent much of her life in missionary pursuits, witnessing to Jews in Palestine from 1932 until Israel became a nation in 1948. This experience inspired another book, Watchmen on the Walls.
Hinds Feet on High Places was written while Hannah still had a true heart for the Lord; long before she accepted the doctrine of universal salvation and even went on to dabble in the New Age. Sadly, she would later be scorned in evangelical circles.
Hannah took her title from Habakkuk 3:19; “The Lord GOD is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds' feet, and makes me walk on my high places. (NAS) It’s an allegory pertaining to the challenges and triumphs of the devoted Christian’s walk with Christ, in the time honored fashion of the John Bunyon classic, The Pilgrim’s Progress. Hannah’s theme, however, is taken from the biblical book of Song of Songs or Song of Solomon.
From her home in the Valley of Humiliation, our long suffering heroine, Much Afraid can see the High Places where the King lives. Much Afraid has crippled feet that makes her work difficult and tedious, and she longs to be free of the drudgery. Like everyone else in the valley, Much Afraid works for Chief Shepherd, who makes his way between the valley and the high places with miraculous speed and agility.
Much Afraid belongs to the Fearing Clan, and it is decided that she will marry her cousin, Craven Fear. When she appeals to the Shepherd for help, he places a Seed of Love in Much Afraid’s heart and offers to lead her out of the Valley of Humilation to the High Places, with the help of Sorrow and Suffering. Of course, she recoils at the notion of taking the hands of such travel mates. The seeds must blossom, because no one can enter the High Places lest love blossoms in the heart. Although the Shepherd cannot make the perilous journey with her, he promises Much Afraid that he will be near and all she need do is to call out his name.
When the path becomes steep, Much Afraid stumbles along the way because of her crippled feet. Interestingly, a “hind” refers to a female red deer, compared to a male deer called a “hart.” A hind is described as being very sure footed in the mountains, lending much significance to Hannah’s prophetic title. Choosing titles is a particular challenge for this writer. A title like this—woven so deeply in the fabric of the plot—makes me almost covet a gift for titling like Hannah’s.
Predictably, Much Afraid will face hazards along the way, such as the Shores of Loneliness, Precipice of Injury, the Forest of Danger and Tribulation, and the Valley of Loss. She eventually takes the hand of Pride, and the Shepherd must be called upon to drive this demon away. I won’t spoil the rest of the story for you.
Hind’s Feet in High Places inspires me as a writer to present scriptural principle in fiction with appealing plots, out of the ordinary characters, and a powerful message crafted so subtly that my reader will congratulate themselves for arriving at their own profound conclusions.
Hind’s Feet in High Places is a love story. Our relationship with the Shepherd and our Christian walk should be passionate love stories, like the Song of Solomon. How sad that many preachers and teachers avoid these ardent passages of Scripture. Christ’s love for us shouldn’t make us blush but rather sing out our devotion from the steeple.
I encourage anyone with a romantic heart and a passionate spirit for the Lord to purchase a few copies of this book—you’ll want a few to give away.