JOSIAH, A TIMELESS TESTIMONY

A Glory Seed Inspirational Short Story by Gary Piper

Jesus on a road

The story you are about to read while being fiction is actually a true story about my own struggle with 12 hip surgeries. Four of those were replacement on each side, two were bone grafting surgeries, and two were reconstructive surgeries. From my perspective it is one of the most powerful spiritual growth periods in my life. It is my prayer as you read it you will be able to connect with your own spiritual journey.

I can’t believe that he let them do it! He was my only hope and now he’s gone and it’s gone! My legs have been hurting for so long I can’t remember what it is like to walk or run without pain and now I never will. And he just let them do it! I tried so many times to get close to him so he could heal me but with all those people pushing and shoving to get near him I just didn’t have the strength to push my way in. And now he’s gone, gone forever!

I remember the first time our eyes met, his were so warm and friendly mine were filled with pain and desperation. His eyes said to me, “Come to me with your burdens, and your pains and I will give you the rest you need.” REST HAH! Now I’ll never be free of pain, every step I take will be filled with it. With every step I will not only feel the physical pain but I will feel the pain of what might have been.

I remember thinking if I could only find a time when he was by himself then I could get near enough for him to touch me and make me whole. So I set out and followed him as best I could just waiting for my time to come. I saw him heal many people, I saw him forgive people of their sins. I saw our leaders try to discredit him because they didn’t believe and they didn’t understand what he was doing. If they were filled with hopelessness and pain they would have been able to understand, but their hopelessness and pain were hidden in their adherence to the law. I could see and understand why he told them they were blind.

One day someone brought before him a boy blind from birth and asked it was neither it was to glorify God, and then Jesus healed him. I thought about my accident and pain I would glorify God in my healing. With renewed strength I tried to get near him but his disciples led him away.

So I watched and waited for the right time. Then one evening I saw Jesus and his disciples leaving an upper room. I followed them as they left the city and headed for the Garden of Gethsemane. Since I could not walk very fast by the time I got there his disciples were sleeping. I said to myself this is going to be easy with everyone sleeping. In the distance I saw Jesus praying so I thought I’d sit down and rest awhile, it had been a long and tiresome walk and my legs were really hurting. I remember thinking, hurt all you want cause after tonight you’ll never hurt again. I thought about the way life used to be before my fall, the long walks, running, shepherding my sheep. Boy I longed for those days. Now I felt hope for a new life filled with grand expectations. As I watched Jesus praying I just knew that he was praying for me.

I noticed him get up and go to three of his disciples, I thought now it’s my turn. As I got up I noticed he was back praying again. Again my thoughts turned to all the new things life had in store for me. The night was so still, all was at peace. Again I could hear him praying although I could not make out any words. I looked up at the night sky with all its millions of points of light, I just knew I would one day be able to jump up and touch them.

Suddenly the stillness was interrupted by the sound of voices, angry voices coming through the gate. I saw Jesus going toward them, I thought now is my chance. I saw one man kiss Jesus on the cheek, and then there was a commotion. Before I had a chance to reach him they were leading him out the gate. I tried to run, but as his disciples scattered one ran into me causing me to fall down. I tried to get up but all I felt was pain and my strength was nearly gone. With my remaining strength I cried, “Jesus, Jesus, Master I need you, you must touch me so that I will be whole! I have been searching for so long and my legs hurt so much please Jesus help me!” As our eyes touched I saw pain in them, then I saw tears running down his cheeks. One of the soldiers hit him and made him turn around and continue toward the city.

Now I was alone in the garden with all my broken dreams and lost hopes, something told me that I would never see Jesus again. I would be this way forever. As I lay on the ground and looked up at the sky I saw the stars as the number of steps I’d take in pain the rest of my life, I cried. Suddenly I began to feel very cold yet I couldn’t move. I just stared into the night sky and wished I were dead. Finally sleep took my pain away.

While I slept I dreamed reliving the entire nightmare of the day I was attending my sheep when one had wandered away. I relived the panic feeling I felt as I went in search for it. I remember hearing its cries for help yet I couldn’t find it then a few minutes later at the edge of a deep hole I heard a faint cry. As I moved to the edge suddenly I felt the loose dirt giving way and in panic I reached for something to but there was nothing but air and I found myself falling still reaching for something now and there was nothing. Then as I stopped I was in extreme pain as I hit the bottom. I tried to move my legs but because of the pain I stopped. Then suddenly I began dreaming about the events of the last few days and the horror of realizing my dreams were now nightmares.

As the warm morning sun began to warm my face and as the birds sang my tired broken body began to stir. Slowly and painfully I crawled out of the hole and then began the long painful journey home, stopping often to get a handle on my pain. What had started out as an adventure of a lifetime filled with hope had ended abruptly and discouragingly. Off in the distance I could see three men being crucified I recognized the middle man as Jesus. In anger I cried, “Why? Why? You could raise the dead, give sight to the blind, and make the lame to walk, why did you let them kill you?” The more I thought about it the more it made sense that if my life was to be spent in pain then he should suffer to.

While making the long journey home I had plenty of time to think about many of the words I had heard him say, he was always talking about a kingdom that was not of this world. A kingdom of peace where love would reign as I lay on the ground at night, after the pain in my legs had eased I began to long for this new kingdom. I could picture myself running and doing all the things I had dreamed about before they turned into nightmares. But when I awoke in the morning and started on my journey I would once again feel the pain of the real world. As I thought about how Jesus had killed my hopes and dreams, anger began to build in me until I screamed, “God, I wish it would have been me on that cross, take my life Lord because all it hold for me is pain and disappointment.” In my dreams I began to see myself as one of the men who was crucified with Jesus and I began to feel a mysterious peace settling my troubled mind.

I had been on the road for 3 days and as night fell I looked for a place to rest for the night. I spotted a warm and inviting campfire, “Come friend and enjoy the warmth of my fire and share my supper with me,” I heard him say. I really hadn’t been hungry but it had been about 5 days since my last meal and suddenly I was hungry enough to eat a camel. As I sat down the stranger handed me some bread and fish. He told me that he saw me coming down the road and that it must be very painful for me to walk. I told him about 25 years ago as a shepherd I was trying to rescue a lamb and fell injuring both legs. I told him of my journey to find Jesus to be healed and my disappointment when I couldn’t get close enough to him.

He told me our lives were a little bit alike, he was also injured saving his sheep. “I remember,” he said, “A time when I had just discovered where my life would take me and what I’d have to go though. I remember my mother teaching me the scriptures I especially remember her reading David’s Psalms 22 and getting a mysterious sense of connection to it. Like you I often saw the stars as points of pain. However, I found myself aware of the Fathers love for me and the importance of my life to others, and then those points of pain became faces of his people who needed me. From then on the pain I experienced became worthwhile. I remember seeing your face many, many times in those stars.”

Suddenly it dawned on me this was no stranger this was the very man who I had been searching for. But I saw him die on the cross! How, why? Before I had time to get a hold of myself my mind focused on all of my sins and all the times I had become angry and blamed him. I wanted to run and hide, I knew I did not belong in his presence. I tried to say something but I couldn’t form any words, I just felt so unclean and unworthy in pain I dropped to my knees.

As if he were reading my mind he looked at me and as my eyes caught his I saw compassion, love, peace, forgiveness, and hope in them. “My whole life has been for you and others like you. As I hung on the cross I pictured you in my mind, for you I died. Do not let your guilt burden you instead let my death heal you and begin your life anew. Because the Father’s love for you I have been resurrected to be a blessing for you. My resurrection has made it possible for you to soar on the wings of God’s love, above all your burdens and pains. Because of my love for you I would live a thousand lifetimes and die a thousand deaths for you without any regrets. My resurrection was for the here and now as well at some point in time when you will join me and my Father in a mansion I am preparing for you. Now my friend rest for your journey home,” his words brought me peace like I had never felt before.

Falling asleep I began to relive all of the painful experiences I’ve had and as each one passed before me I would see Jesus and the pain he endured for me and in turn each experience was transformed into points of love and points of peace. Again I saw myself on the cross next to Jesus in a way I had died on the cross, God had taken my life just as I had asked him to. When I awoke in the morning he was gone. As the warm sun warmed me and as the birds sang their morning songs I felt a very strange peace. Beginning to move I noticed the pain was still with me yet it wasn’t pain it was a reminder of my brief encounter with Jesus. Instead of reacting to the pain in the way I had before I began to feel very humble then I took a step instead of pain I felt the love of Jesus and I felt that strange peace. I could see my physical pain was a strong bond linking me with Jesus and the more intense the pain the more intense the peace.

Walking toward home I passed a man with 2 oxen that were yoked together and the thought occurred to me that my physical impairment was the yoke that connected me to Jesus. I also remembered Jesus had said his pain reminded him of others, I wondered if I could do the same almost instantaneously I began to see that everyone walks through life with pain in one form or another, I began to see the faces of some of my friends. I began to feel their pain and I began to feel the strength of Jesus Christ.

Continuing my journey home I began to hear the sounds of life for what seemed like first time. I never knew how much I missed the sounds of birds singing, the winds whistling through the trees, and all the noises the small creatures make. Together they sounded like a great choral singing praises for just being alive. And I remember thinking how much of life I missed because I so wrapped up in myself. I can see why Isaiah wrote Jesus would free the captive because he freed me from the pains and loneliness of a miserable life.

As night approached I looked for a spot spend the night since there were no Inns or anything near I would be spending another night under the stars. But I didn’t mind because it reminded me of the night Jesus touched my life. I found a spot under a large tree sitting on a small knoll enabling me to see the road in both directions. I thought about building a fire but it was a warm night and the moon was full so there was enough light so I lowered myself down to the ground and began to enjoy the evening.

I began to talk to Jesus because I knew he was with me in spirit. As I looked up through the tree I observed all the millions and millions of stars and I felt so small and insignificant. Then I noticed one star in the eastern sky that shown so bright it stood out from all the rest. That star reminded me of my life Jesus had made the pains in my life shine amidst all their darkness. In a spirit of thanksgiving I prayed, “Jesus what do you want me to do with my life? I am so grateful that you have given me freedom from my old life and given me a new one. But what do I do with this new life?”

Looking into the sky for some sort of answer I again felt small and insignificant. How could I one person make a difference in such a big world. Then I noticed a small star near a brighter one, it seemed as if it were struggling to maintain its existence. As I watched suddenly they moved together. And the dimmer one seemed to shine brighter. As it twinkled it did become brighter and brighter and then they both began shinning brighter than before. In a short time the stars moved back to their regular place. At first I rubbed my eyes I couldn’t believe what I had just seen. Suddenly I began to see the brighter star as myself and the star that was fighting for its life someone who needed to learn about Jesus and the way he can bring light and blessings to a dark life.

Whenever I met someone on the road I would stop and tell my story to them. Some would listen and believe some would mock me. I remember one man named Jacob, in particular because his story was a lot like mine only he was physically healed of leprosy. There were 10 who left the colony in search of Jesus when they heard he could heal people. He told me that after he was healed he felt wonderful for awhile then he began to feel empty that he did not feel spiritually whole. Ever since he searched for Jesus so that he could find out what happened. He heard stories that Jesus had been killed, but he didn’t believe them. “He gave me life when I was certain to die, anyone who has power over life and death cannot die he is alive and I will find him,” he said.

I told him that I had seen Jesus die on the cross but that I had also talked with him after his death. I then told him of my search for him but in the end it was Jesus who came to me. I told him that Jesus had healed me but seeing I had a noticeable limp he inquired as to what I had been healed from. “My healing came in the form of a release from the captivity of pain in my legs. Pain that caused me to live a life of only existing, all I ever wanted was for my life to end so I would no longer feel the pain. You would never know Jesus had touched me by seeing me walk because I still limp but now the pain has no power over me,” I said with a great big smile.

I continued, “I once heard him say that we must take up our crosses and follow him. As he talked with me day he healed me he left me with the impression our lives were the cross that he bore, it was because of us that he died. And it was because of God he lived again. I see my cross as the pain in my legs it caused my spirit to die yet through the powers of Jesus he restored my life. So I bear my cross proudly and with each step I receive strength and with each step I know that there are others who need Jesus’ strength to bare their crosses.”

“That’s a marvelous testimony you have and I see you are bearing your cross rather well. I am sure Jesus is pleased with you. But what about me? I was completely healed, there are no remnants of leprosy left yet I am left with an empty heart and an empty spirit.” We walked in silence for quite awhile and I had no trouble seeing he was greatly troubled. I thought it strange here was a person who had been totally healed yet he was still did not have peace like I did. I could still feel the physical pain yet I was totally at peace with it. I wondered how that could be it wasn’t long before I received my answer. “I sure wish Jesus would have healed my spirit like he did yours,” his voice was beginning to break up.

Our situations were similar both of us were motivated to seek Jesus for our own desire. Jesus responded to us in different ways. I began to consider the idea that Jesus’ touch affects us in two ways our body and our spirit. Yet they seem to affect us separately, my spirit was affected yet my body was not and he was just the opposite. The idea began to formulate in my mind that maybe the real healing that Jesus gives is spiritual and as a result our bodies may or may not be affected. What if Jacob had received a spiritual healing only something was preventing him from feeling it? Maybe he was looking for a physical healing and not a spiritual one. I remembered in my own case I had learned to live with the pain but I couldn’t learn to live with what it was robbing me of.

“Have you ever stopped to think that Jesus did heal your spirit and something is preventing you from experiencing it?” I asked. “Look at me I am the same person on the outside I was before I met him, but on inside I am a new person.”

“I don’t really know. I suppose it’s possible but what could it be?” he asked. “All my life I have been an outcast shunned by everyone including my family I hope you never know what that feels like, all I ever wanted was just to be normal so I could pay back those who made my life miserable.” Suddenly I knew his problem wasn’t the leprosy his anger was eating his spirit away. I encouraged him to reconcile himself to the past to forgive those who did not understand. We give thanks to Jesus not through words but through the way we live our lives. I assured him if he could do those things he would find a new spirit in him.

We walked pretty much in silence until it was time for our paths to part. We stopped just before we parted and I told him that as he walked down the road he chose I would be praying that the peace of Jesus would bless him and be with him. He said something about not being at peace until he was satisfied and then left. As I stopped to rest I watched him walk away and I asked Jesus to go with him. I wonder to this day what ever happened to him. I would like to think that our lives crossed for a purpose and that that purpose was fulfilled.

More and more I began to understand living life is like a walking down a road. A road that sometimes runs alongside other roads but it’s one we must walk by ourselves. It is a road filled with dangers coming from disappointments, from selfishness, and unforgiveness. It’s a road that leads to loneliness, depression, and a meaningless life filled with emptiness. Then along comes Jesus and places us at a fork in the road. If we choose the right way he then joins us on our road and we are no longer alone. Walking along I thanked him over and over for helping me take the right fork in the road.

I walked the rest of the day by myself, but I wasn’t really alone. I wondered what my wife Hannah would say when I got home. She had prayed so hard that Jesus would heal me. I prayed that she would not be disappointed like Jacob was. I couldn’t wait to get home and tell her about Jesus.

As night fell sitting in front of my campfire I noticed another person coming down the road with a limp just like mine. As he came into the light of my fire I could tell by the expression on his face that he was in extreme pain. I could also tell he wasn’t a shepherd he was too well dressed for that. I started to be concerned that perhaps he meant to harm me but almost instantly I felt at peace. “Greetings Josiah may I rest with you for the night,” he inquired. “My legs are really hurting and I need to stop I have been on the road for three days straight.”

At the time it did not occur to me that he, a total stranger had called me by name. The more he talked the more he put me at ease. As he lowered himself to the ground I noticed again the expression on his face was one of pain and for an instant I could feel my pain returning.

“My name is Zephaniah, I really appreciate you sharing your camp with me. I don’t know how much longer I could go on with each step I was getting more and more tired. What puts you on this lonely road Josiah?” he asked me. I told him how many years ago I was injured in a fall and I had since lived a life of pain, of hopelessness, resentment, and anger. And I told the story of my search for Jesus, my finding him and about how he changed my life. “I noticed that you were limping and appeared to be in a considerable amount of pain,” I said, “I know Jesus lives because he touched me after his death. And more than once I have felt his presence with me. I also know that he could give you help you with your pain as he did me.”

“Nothing would please me more but Jesus touched me and for awhile I did not feel any pain. For awhile I felt alive again, life had taken on a new meaning for me. I told everyone I met of my experience and of the blessings he had given me. Then one day I met a very wise and smart man who told me that I had been tricked, that my pain was still very real. He told me Jesus had only blinded me to it then one day I notice my shadow and as I saw the painful way I walked suddenly I was no longer blind to the pain it was real,” He said with a detectable anger tone in his voice.

I started to say something but the words would not come, there were no words. Then the impact of what he was saying began settling in my mind. Here was a man with problems similar to mine saying that Jesus had tricked him. Had Jesus tricked me? Did my pain really exist? What did it all mean? Almost instantly I began praying for some sort of sign from Jesus. I found myself afraid to move for fear the pain would return and life again would be worthless. Looking up the stars were no longer there instead all I saw were dark clouds, the gentle breezes were replaced by a cold wind and everything became silent. I began to feel my heart racing, I could feel a chill coming over me and I shivered. My peace began to fade.

“Please Jesus don’t let this happen to me,” I prayed. “I know what I felt after you me my spiritual healing was real and I know it still is. Everything around me is telling me that my life is headed into darkness and despair and I am facing a great storm and will be lost unless you strengthen me. I need to feel your peace. Please Jesus, please.” No sooner did I get the words out when my mind began recalling some of the things I heard Jesus teaching. He once said that he who looks over his shoulder is unfit for the kingdom. Recalling the past there was a great deal of pain, but suddenly I realized the past was the past and the now is now and I am different then I was. Somehow I knew I was a new person the old Josiah had passed away.

Then all of a sudden I then remembered he called me by name. How did he know my name? I had never seen him before and I had not given him my name. I could feel the peace he projected at first becoming fear. Who was he? Where did he come from? “Who are you and where do you come from and how did you know my name?” I asked him.

“I thought I told you, my name is Zephaniah. I have been following you for some time now. I was watching you when you visited with Jesus. I saw him deceive you into thinking that you were a new person. But I saw you as you really were. You are a tired and defeated person living a life of hopelessness you do not need Jesus you need me. If you will denounce Jesus and follow me I will see that you never feel pain again. Jesus is a fraud, his spirit haunts the earth but his body still lies in the grave.”

“Your name is not Zephaniah it is Lucifer the father of lies, creator of darkness. Jesus gives light you give darkness. Jesus gives peace you give fear. Jesus has given me the power to see you for who you are. And he gives me the words to say, “Be gone Satan walk your life in the pain that Jesus had defeated you again.” I said in a commanding tone.

In an instant he was gone looking around I could see the stars once again. The violent and cold wind was turned into a gentle breeze carrying the sweet smell of nearby field. I could feel the warmth of my fire again. Peace once again took hold of me and I began to search for words to thank Jesus but there were none. Minutes later sleep began doing its magic and suddenly I knew I would be safe.

That was 10 years ago yet it is still as fresh in my mind as if it happened yesterday, I guess in a way it happens to me every day. So if you see me limping as if I am in pain don’t focus your thoughts on me think about Jesus and his walk for you and please don’t feel sorry for me instead pray for those who still walk through life in pain.

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