Shoes of Iron for the Schizophrenia Road

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Be sure, if your path is rougher than mine, you will get more divine help than I will.

J.R. Miller

Don’t underestimate footwear. Even the Bible takes note of suitable shoes, especially those needed for a hard journey. We have all heard the familiar Ephesians passage about putting on the shoes of the gospel of peace, but how many of us know about God’s shoes of iron? If you’re walking through symptoms called schizophrenia, you might want a pair.

The men and women of the tribe of Asher were the first to hear about the shoes. After the Israelites traveled through the desert for 40 years, with clothes and footwear that did not wear out, Moses blessed the 12 tribes. He spoke forth favor with brethren, excellency, safety, fruitfulness and glory, treasures, dwelling like a lion, and victory over enemies, along with these words for Asher:

“Thy shoes shall be of iron and bronze; and as thy days, so shall thy strength be.” (Deut. 33:25)

Steel shoes? At first, this seems like an odd blessing until you understand the tribe of Asher would inherit rugged, rocky land. They would have some very rough terrain to travel, unlike Zebulon’s haven by the sea. Moses’ blessing for them is a prayer for provision that will enable the tribe to meet their inherited difficulty. As J.R. Miller states in his sermon about this passage:

“When God sends us on a journey over steep and flinty paths—he will not fail to provide us with suitable shoes. . . . Shoes of iron are promised only to those who are to have rugged roads, and not to those whose path lies amid the flowers and soft meadows. There is a comforting suggestion here, for all who find peculiar hardness in their life. Peculiar grace is pledged to them.” 1

Miller goes on to point out the second half of the promise echoes the first half. First, shoes for the rough terrain, and second–as thy days, so shall they strength be. “Be sure,” he says, “if your path is rougher than mine, you will get more divine help than I will.” You will get a greater measure of divine strength, enough to match your struggle. “Days of struggle get more grace than calm, quiet days.”

The Old Testament prophecy about the tribe of Asher provides insight for us 21st century pilgrims. For rough days, God provides extra strength to do all we need to, with praise. The all-knowing God compensates us for the rough roads of our lot in life.

The apostle Paul said God’s grace was sufficient for the trials and tribulations of his life which included severe beatings, death threats and plots, an eye ailment, shipwreck, and jail. “We are troubled on every side,” he said, as well as perplexed, persecuted, cast down, and physically close to death. On top of that, he admitted to facing sorrow constantly, as well as poverty. Yet here was a man who could rejoice constantly because of the presence of God in his life, and of God’s enabling power, and because of the ongoing wonder of a great salvation received through Christ. Paul walked his road well and we can do the same.

Lord, I understand that following Christ does not eliminate problems from my life nor guarantee an easy path. For my path, which I find so troubling and perplexing, so exhausting, grant me strength to walk each day with hope and courage. Sustain my faith and enable me to rise above fear and failure so that I joyfully embrace your call to life. In fact, I want to proclaim like Jacob, How filled with awe is this place and I did not know it. Open my eyes to see the perfect shoes you have already given me for this rough road, the perfect amount of grace to live with dignity and courage, and the perfect Christ in which I hide with all my sin and sickness. Amen.

1“Iron Shoes for Rough Roads,” by J. R. Miller, http://gracegems.org/Miller/iron_shoes.htm