In the summer days, there are many people who, thinking of physical health and a rest of mind and body rather than of that high spiritual uplift which he no doubt meant, are using David’s words as they turn away from the rut and routine of business to seek the needed refreshment. It is with a sigh of thanksgiving as well as a deep breath of hope that the tired man says, as he checks his trunk for the high places of the north: “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.” The hill country has healing in its deep fastnesses for the weary multitudes of the city.
My baby, who has spent the four happy summers of his buoyant life on earth on a tremendous hill-crowned farm in New Hampshire and who thoroughly agrees with David, was being led in his prayers the other night as usual by his mother. When it came to where children of many generations have said, “If I should die before I wake,” he suddenly started with the inquiry: “Who dies us?” His mother was somewhat startled but replied as composedly as possible that that was a matter which the Lord took care of. “Well,” said the impulsive youngster, “if the Lord dies us, then I don’t love the Lord!”
There was a very startling situation, but his mother still held her ground and told him that the Lord took us to a better place, that if we were good when we died, he would meet us and take us to heaven. Instantly, the persistent four-year-old exclaimed: “Is heaven a farm?”
Now, I confess that the boy may have inherited some of that, for I cannot think of heaven without something of the freedom, breeziness, and outdoor feeling of the hills coming into my ideal.
The hills are full of healing because it is there that the woods grow in their fullness and perfection. Oh, the blessedness of the woods! The woods are full of bird nests. There, the crows hold their conventions; there, the jaybirds play their sharp pranks; there, the yellow hammer and the woodpecker do their carpentering and exploit their beauty; there, the partridge rears her brood, and the fox lurks to make a meal of them. Deep in the woods, where the spring seeps out at the head of the little canyon, the ferns, rare and delicate and fragrant, grow in abundance. The mosses cover the rocks there, and nature is sweet and gentle. Even the trees are full of healing; the pine and the balsam fir make the air redolent with a perfume full of God’s own medicine for tired men and weary women.
The woods are full of precious things of every sort. Jonathan, David’s best friend, once found a bee tree in the woods when he was nearly starved and filled himself with the sweet honey. And the record says his eyes grew bright, though they had been dull and lifeless until he found the wild bees’ hive. The woods are full of berries— blackberries, raspberries, and huckleberries —and if there is a breathing place in little glades among the forest, the wild strawberries stand up on a stem as long as your finger and grow red and sweet in the summer sun.
Margaret Sangster sings of it well in her little poem, “In the Heart of the Woods”:
Such beautiful things in the heart of the woods!
Flowers and ferns and the soft green moss;
Such love of the birds in the solitudes,
Where the swift winds glance, and the tree-tops toss;
Spaces of silence swept with song,
Which nobody hears but the God above;
Spaces where myriad creatures throng,
Sunning themselves in his guarding love.
Such safety and peace in the heart of the woods,
Far from the city’s dust and din,
Where passion nor hate of man intrudes,
Nor fashion now folly has entered in
Deeper than hunter’s trail hath gone
Glimmers the tarn where the wild deer drink;
And fearless and free comes the gentle fawn,
To peep at herself o’er the grassy brink.
Such a pledge of love in the heart of the woods!
For the Maker of all things keeps the feast,
And over the tiny floweret broods
With care that for ages has never ceased,
If he cares for this, will he not for thee
Thee, wherever thou art today?
Child of an infinite Father, see;
And safe in such gentlest keeping stay.
The hills have healing in them because the spring brooks are born there. Nothing is sweeter than the evolution of a little brook. First, there is the wet, spongy place where the wild flags bloom and the ferns are thick; a little farther down, a few drops of water ooze out from under a stone and drop down over another, and a little farther on, it begins to trickle and then to gurgle and get along in its heart, and the birds and the squirrels and the cottontails and the wild fawns drink at its side and thank God. Soon, it gets courage and burrows out for deep holes under the dark rocks where the trout hide, and then rushes forth over the great boulders and splashes white in the sun, making a sight so beautiful that the little dark water ouzel dives into it for very delight. Thank God for the brook that runs among the hills; the water is sweet and clear and cool, and its whole career, from the time it oozes out from under the rock at the canyon head until it pours its courageous tide into the mountain lake, is full of courage mingled with beauty.
The hills have healing in them because they lift themselves high up to catch the breath of the clouds that do not come down into the low valleys; they get up close to God and speak to him first, and he gives them gifts to hold as trustees for the broad plains that are far away.
We should learn lessons from the hills. The closer we get to God, and the more thoroughly we open our hearts to receive his rich blessings, the happier we shall be ourselves and the more blessing and benefit we shall be to the world. We should catch David’s spirit and seek comfort and strength from high sources. Whenever men are sick, weak, or in trouble, there is always a temptation to seek help from sources that are beneath them. If a man yields to that, he is lost. But sickness or pain or trouble may be a blessing rare and precious if thereby we are brought into closer fellowship with the high hills of God.
Banks, Louis Albert. Unused Rainbows: Prayer Meeting Talks. Fleming H Revell, 1901.
2023 Louis Banks and Nathan Zipfel, revised and updated.