“Breaking news, stay tuned for details of yet another mass shooting” captured the network airtime this past weekend once again. As we sort through yet more national tragedies and as flags are again lowered to half-mast in honor of the dead, the question “WHY?” is being asked and answered over and over again. As a Pastor and church leader, my heart aches for the devastated families and hurting hearts. As a husband, father and grandfather my mind heads in many directions as I consider just how close these incidents are getting to home. As a follower of Jesus Christ, my faith causes me to look to the scriptures for answers and comfort.
As we once again we find ourselves as a nation in a tragic valley that challenges our hearts and tries our faith. How do you understand the heartache, how do you get your mind around the sorrow, and how do we fathom the grief? We are comfortably soothed with the thought those things don’t happen where I live. They don’t happen to our family or for that matter… to me! Tragedy defined is a disastrous event that causes great sadness. But let me say that though a dictionary can define for us an incident, there is a Bible that describes for us an amazing God who we can turn to when we find ourselves traversing the valleys of life.
David wisely gives to us a bulwark for our faith during the deepest of valleys. “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Now I am confident that most are very familiar with these precious verses and perhaps these words have brought comfort and peace to your own heart. This past week as I became aware of the magnitude of the events that occurred in El Paso and Dayton I was again drawn to David’s perspective as he entered the valley.
Notice he says yeah, or yes though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death. It’s not “I hope I never” nor is it a “this will never happen to me” thought. David says “though I walk,” in other words, if or when I do find myself where I never thought I would ever be I am glad to be aware of a few important facts. First, there is the reality that in the valley I don’t have to fear because the great shepherd is with me! Someone once said, “Sometimes the Lord calms the storm. Sometimes he lets the storm rage and calms His child.”
I also hear David remind us that in the valley we also are made aware of God’s strength and his protection… “Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” From “Today in the word” we find the following story. “John Paton was a missionary in the New Hebrides Islands. One night hostile natives surrounded the mission station, intent on burning out the Paton’s and killing them. Paton and his wife prayed during that terror-filled night that God would deliver them. When daylight came they were amazed to see their attackers leave. A year later, the chief of the tribe was converted to Christ. Remembering what had happened, Paton asked the chief what had kept him from burning down the house and killing them. The chief replied in surprise, “Who were all those men with you there?” Paton knew no men were present, but the chief said he was afraid to attack because he had seen hundreds of big men in shining garments with drawn swords circling the mission station.”
The question for many is now what? First, we think of and pray for those affected by these terrible tragedies. My friend former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee said this week, “Despite all those who are denouncing the idea of prayers for the victims, I will continue to pray for the victims and their families and for an end to this mindless violence, and I hope you will, too. In fact, … I would posit that the lack of thought and prayers is probably the single biggest factor in what is behind them.” Prayer still matters… pray!
What a joy to be able to say, “Lord, I’ll trust you…even here in the valley, even though it happens to my family, even if it happens to me!” Your presence, your strength and your protection are mine even if. As I process all that David shares I rejoice that when we find ourselves at a loss for words there is an amazing God who loves us, takes away our fear, walks with us… always!
Midwest Director of Ministry for the Family Research Council in Washington