Devotional Reading from the Daily Common Lectionary: Psalm 23
Text: Ye, thou I walk through the valley of the shadow of death… (v. 4, King James Version). Even though I walk through through the darkest valley (a number of more modern translations)
I received a text message from a friend who has had more than his share of problems. He has suffered just about every imaginable loss over the past year and a half or so; family, job, wealth, etc. Another hard knock came his way recently, one that would have have knocked him off balance at any other time, but it was the final straw. He felt like he was going to break.
“What have I done to cause God to do this to me?! Have I been so bad?!”
The cry of anguish in the soul. I thought about how I would respond as we were in different states of the country. I wanted to choose my words carefully. I also wanted to pray and think about my response. Finally I wrote him saying that I’m not sure of many things but there are a couple things of which I am very sure. He did nothing wrong and God is not punishing him. That is not Who God is. God is love (I John 4:8). Bad things happen because we live in a broken world. Secondly, remembering the words of the most beloved Psalm as well as the Cross of Jesus, I am convinced that God is with us in our pain and suffering, even if we cannot feel His Presence. God walks beside us in Life’s dark valleys, especially the dark valleys of the soul. And, in the words of Paul in his letter to the Romans, nothing in this world can ever separate us from God’s love.(Chapter 8) That God-love is unconditional. And it is transformative. Earlier in chapter 8 Paul wrote from his own life experience saying that while God does not cause evil, God can redeem evil and bring something good out of the ashes; not perfect, but good.
I don’t know if my response was what he needed. I have not heard back from my friend. But I do know that in my response I revealed not some pious jargon but the deepest beliefs of my faith.
Maybe my words can be of comfort to you or someone you know.
Be our light in the darkness, O Lord. Be present and protect us through the hours
of the night, so that we who are wearied by the changes and chances of this life may rest in your eternal changelessness. O Lord, drive far from us all snares of the enemy; let your holy angels dwell with us to preserve us in peace; and let your blessing be upon us always; Amen. (from The Book of Common Prayer, compline service)