A rock and a safe place

Every fortnight people from a farming background, or who have a heart for the countryside in the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, offer a personal reflection on faith and rural life. They hope that you will be encouraged by it.

In our last column, Rev Kenny Hanna described a hike up Pigeon Rock Mountain in the Mournes with his son. From the top the view was ‘fabulous’ and ‘worth every ounce of frustrating effort.’ Frustrating because the journey had not been as straightforward as usual, given the sodden paths that just couldn’t be taken. But they made it nonetheless.

They say in the Mournes you can sometimes get all four seasons in one day - so always be prepared. Come sunshine, rain, sleet, or snow, for the farmer, farming is very much an all-weather livelihood, ultimately depending on each season blessing the land with the right weather at the right time – which to me is becoming less consistent as the years pass.

What is entirely consistent, however, as you make your way further into the Kingdom of Mourne, is its stunning beauty. Ascending its 15 or so peaks, a palate of colours – the granite grey of the mountains to the green and yellows of the gorse to the heathery pinks and purples - adorn this living masterpiece in the shifting sunlight. The views on a clear day are breath-taking. But even when I have sat on a rock, stopped in my tracks by quick descending mist, lost in its silence the peace of the place was just as beautiful.

Sitting there alone, enjoying the solitude on that convenient rock, my friends having gone for Donard’s summit, an encroaching sense of vulnerability was never too far away. That is, until I could see again.

In life it is often difficult to see ahead clearly as the world and its problems whirl around us, or we may feel stuck in a moment, vulnerable and on shaky ground, unable to move on from a particular situation – but we are never alone.

In Psalm 40:1-3, King David writes these reassuring words, “I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in him.” Have you put your trust in Him?

While you have breath in your lungs, it is never too late to trust in Jesus, repenting of your sin and asking His forgiveness. For Jesus will forgive you and lift you out of that pit. He will set your feet on firmer, more solid ground, but only when you realise that is the place you need to be and understand in your heart that Jesus is the only one who can do it.

That rock is a good place to be. In the Bible, we find that the Hebrew, Yahweh Tsuri - ‘the Lord is my rock’ - is one of the many names used to describe God, for He is a place of refuge, safety, and strength, a stronghold, a place of salvation.

As we begin in the foothills of 2023, why not seek that special place of life’s surest foundation, so you can declare, as King David does, “Truly he is my rock and my salvation, he is my fortress, I will never be shaken” (Psalm 62:7).

Before coming to live in Belfast nearly 40 years ago, Mark grew up in a village in rural Sussex, coming to Northern Ireland in his late teens. He is a member of Bloomfield Presbyterian Church in east Belfast and the Presbyterian Church in Ireland’s press officer.

If you would like to talk to someone about any of the issues raised in this article, please email Rev Kenny Hanna, PCI’s Rural Chaplain at [email protected] or call him on 07938 488 372.