The gatepost

Sheep on the road
Sheep on the road

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

The other day while out in the car I came across a couple of ewes that were on the road. Not an unusual sight in the countryside around where we are. Thankfully they quickly escaped down a lane out of harm’s way.

A little further down the same road the mystery of where they had come from was quickly solved. There lay a wooden gatepost on the ground, and the gate it had once held safely shut was swinging in the wind. The four foot of the post above the ground looked fine, but it had rotted right through just beneath ground level.

A gatepost like that reminds me of a danger we all face. To the casual eye everything might look good about our lives. One may have been a successful farmer over many years - relied on by family and friends. But beneath the surface we may be afraid to admit that we are struggling.

Long hours on the farm, a string of losses, falling behind on payments, little sleep. These and many other gnawing circumstances can rot away our mental well being to the point that we have nothing left to give. With no strength or energy left and no concentration either, we don’t know how to stop or how to share how we feel, until our health finally breaks.

Don’t wait until a breakdown. Broken gateposts are quite straightforward to replace, but broken minds are a different matter altogether. We don’t hesitate to go to the doctor with broken limbs and shouldn’t when it comes to broken minds either.

The apostle Paul wrote, “If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Corinthians 10:12). He knew that each one of us is prone to relying on personal strength and resources to plough our own furrow through life. Too often it takes a collapse in our relationships, our business or our health to bring us to realise our need to depend on God. Do you already feel like a broken gatepost, or one that is about to give way?

Jesus, the Son of God, said in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” If we receive Him as Saviour and Lord of our whole lives, He transforms us from being like dead gateposts to being like living trees. Unlike gateposts, trees can grow roots.

God has given us His Word, prayer and fellowship with His people to nourish our innermost being. As we receive His grace through these means, our hearts are daily renewed and refilled by the Holy Spirit.

Jesus invites us into a whole new life and into a whole new way of life when he says, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light,” (Matthew 11:29). In John’s gospel, Jesus gives us another wonderful promise, “Whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” (John 6:37).

Reverend Norman Smyth is married to Linda and they have three children. The son of a Co Antrim dairy farmer, he is the minister of the rural congregations of Clogherney and Sixmilecross in CoTyrone.

If you would like to talk to someone about any of the subjects raised in this article, please email Reverend Kenny Hanna at or call him on 028 9753 1234.