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The valley of the shadow of death

It’s been a strange summer. My wife and I have seen a lot of tragedy lately — not in our immediate family, but in a surprisingly high number of friends and other relationships.

A close friend of ours was in a horrible auto accident and suffered a serious brain injury two months ago. He’s been in the hospital and rehab ever since, and his wife and two young children are left hoping and praying that his brain will fully heal.

While on vacation with my family, my sister-in-law received a phone call that her best friend’s husband was tragically killed in a plane crash, leaving her friend widowed and her two young children fatherless.

My wife’s cousin was pregnant, carried her son to full term, and was due to deliver last week; but her son’s umbilical cord became tangled in the womb, and he tragically died just before being born.

A college friend of mine is currently in the hospital. He has suffered much from cancer and his wife and four daughters have been told that his chances aren’t looking very good.

All four of these young families are facing sorrows and heartache that I can’t even imagine. Everywhere we look we see people who are hurting and grieving. These families are going through horrible times, and many more of our friends from our church and community are also facing their own tragedies.

Wherever we look, we keep seeing people suffering from loss, sickness, sorrow and pain.

It’s not uncommon in these times to ask the question, “Why would you let this happen, God?”

Tragedy almost always leaves us wondering why God doesn’t intervene; why doesn’t He prevent such things from happening?

There are rarely easy answers to such difficult questions. But rather than posing unanswerable questions to God, I would like to ask a different question: How can anyone find peace in the midst of tragedy without God? How can a person find hope when facing suffering and sorrow if God is not real to him?

I believe it is only God who can give meaning to our lives when our circumstances don’t seem to make sense. God’s presence can sustain us and give us faith, even when tragedy besets us.

In the middle of one of the most famous passages of Scripture, the Psalmist writes, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (Ps 23:4).

Have you had a time in your life when you seemed to be walking through the “valley of the shadow of death?” Are you facing your own personal time of suffering or unanswerable questions?

Rather than spending your time wondering why God has not prevented your difficult circumstances, I encourage you to seek Him and to learn to trust in Him in the midst of your pain and heartache.

(Tristan Borland is pastor at Riverview Church in Pine River.)