I would call this “God’s timing” – the weekly lectionary reading is Psalm 23:1The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.
2He makes me lie down in green pastures;he leads me beside still waters;
3he restores my soul.He leads me in right paths
for his name's sake.4Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;for you are with me;
your rod and your staff-
they comfort me.5You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
my whole life long.
And this just feels like the right thing to read / write when our hearts are so heavy and our hearts are pleading “why?” Even when we don’t have an answer, knowing that the Lord is our shepherd and feeling that we are being tended to even in our darkest of times brings those of us with faith comfort. But how do we of faith respond to tragedy – be it in our own town, community, country or world. How do we lose the feeling of hopelessness and find hope in our God when so many voices proclaim there is none?
It is times like this that our faith is challenged. We cannot yet explain the happenings that led up to the two bombings at the Boston Marathon on Monday but what we do know is a day that was meant for celebration and personal triumph ended in mayhem and personal agony. That those running in joy were brought to run in fear and lives were lost, wounds created and limps severed. As many who were witnessed to the event they felt like they were in hell.
But we know that no one was alone. We know that EMT, medical staff and firefighters were right there to help. We know that good Samaritans and strangers came together and that the bond of humanity transformed what could have been a worse situation into one in which people will carry on and be stronger. We know that God, despite how dark the situation looked or how thick the smoke was, was present. We know this because we believe; because we have seen God’s working in our lives during our own darkest moments and have felt how strong we become when we have walked through the valley of death only to find ourselves at God’s table of blessings!
The shepherd takes care of his sheep, tends to them and protects them – but the shepherd also lets the sheep wonder and stray (usually not too far). The shepherd doesn’t keep the sheep in a protected pen or bubble all the time and when something goes wrong, the shepherd tends to the sheep. Our Creator is like that, the Almighty can’t protect us from all the hurt and evil in the world. We can’t live our lives in a bubble afraid to go anyway, so we have to take risks and go and do and be. But that doesn’t mean that our Sustainer isn’t right there with us, walking with us and caring for us. It doesn’t mean nothing bad is ever going to happen or that we aren’t going to experience pain or that God punishes us through grief…it does however mean that our Sustainer will be there with us, helping us to carry on through the dark and that once we have reached the threshold there awaits abundant blessings. The shepherd dealt with wolfs and other predators of the sheep let us know let the evil in the world cloud our vision and our faith so that we cannot see the feast that God has provided us.