Walking through the Shadows

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Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Life can be downright disheartening sometimes.  Problems can weigh us down.  There are times when we feel like absolutely – positively nothing is going right.  There are days when it feels like everywhere we turn – the news is bad.  And growing ever worse.

It can sometimes get downright exhausting just being alive in this broken – messed up world – can’t it?

For weeks now the news has been just so very – very bleak.  For far too long the news has been filled with heartbreaking stories.  Stories of death and loss and grief.  Stories of human suffering and despair.  Stories that literally take your breath away – because they are just so terribly – painfully – tragically sad.

And this time – well – this time – the stories are different because this time the news stories are about our own country.  The news reports are about men, women, and children who might have been our own friends and neighbors.  These folks might have been our own co-workers or our very own family members.  This time – the news is hitting so very – very close to home.

And frankly as Americans – I think that we have gotten used to so many of the stories of pain and loss and tragedy being about far off places.  Places that we haven’t been.  Places where we don’t know anyone.  Places where the names sound strange to us.  Places where the people don’t look like us and where we don’t speak the same language.

So while we often feel very sorry for the folks who are struggling and suffering – it isn’t personal to us.  It is their problem – not ours.  We can remain emotionally detached.  We can be compassionate but removed observers.  We can remain both physically and emotionally distant.  Because we just don’t really have any skin in the game.

But this time the big – scary – ominous problems aren’t out there someplace far away.  This time the terrifying problems aren’t across the ocean – in other parts of the world.   This time the big – ugly – scary – ominous problem is right here in our own country.  In our state.  In our hometown.  Maybe even in our very own neighborhoods.  This time the big – messy mess is right here where we live.  And it is rocking our world.  It is turning our lives upside down and inside out.  

This time it isn’t closer to home.  This time – it is in our homes.  Or at least we fear that it could be in our homes at any time.  If we aren’t careful.  If we don’t wash our hands long enough.  If we don’t use enough hand sanitizer.  If we don’t wear our face masks when we get the groceries.  If we don’t maintain a safe social distance at the pharmacy or if we make an absent minded mistake.

This time the problems are not out there somewhere else.  This time the problems are right here in our own community.  And it is devastating.

This time we are the ones who have been furloughed and are wondering how long until that first unemployment check will arrive.  Or if it will arrive at all – because so many other folks are in the very same predicament and the system is just plain overwhelmed right now!

This time we are the ones who are staying home to stay safe.

This time we are the ones who are home schooling our children or our grandchildren for the first time while trying to work remotely.  And it is just so hard to juggle it all while keeping a smile on your face and food in the refrigerator and clean clothes in everyone’s closets.

This time we are the ones who worry every time someone we love coughs or sneezes a few too many times in one day.  We know it is probably just all of that disgusting tree pollen – but what if it isn’t?  What if – we wonder and worry to ourselves – what if somehow – he picked up COVID-19?  What if my beloved is sick?  Will he be okay?  Or will he be one of the folks who just don’t get better no matter what the dedicated doctors and nurses do?  What if – we wonder and worry and worry some more?  After all – why not us?  Why not our family?  What if we become part of that horrible – horrible curve they keep talking about on the news . . . 

We live in a world that can leave us wondering what the future will hold for us and for our loved ones.  All of this bad news – has a way of shaping our lives.

There are days when I find myself longing to hear some really and truly good news.  

These thoughts were rolling around in my head this week as I sat down to read our scripture lessons for today.  As I read through our Psalm for today – I realized here was the Good News I had been longing to hear.  Here were the words of hope my heart had been yearning for.  Here – at long last – was honest to goodness Good News.   

As I read those familiar words their message of hope and comfort washed over me.   They delighted me and lifted my spirits.  

Listen again to the familiar words of the 23rd Psalm. Hear God’s message to you.  God is speaking words of hope to you.  Words of promise.  Words of comfort.  Words meant to restore your soul:

1 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; 

he leads me beside still waters;

3 he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.

4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, 

I fear no evil; for you are with me; 

your rod and your staff– they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; 

you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, 

and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

The words of the 23rd Psalm can be balm for our souls during times like these.  

Yes – life in this world can be difficult.  Sometimes – life can be incredibly difficult.  Yes – far too much of the news we hear right now is bad news.  Yes – it feels like we are in the middle of the valley of the shadow of death – especially these days. 

But the Good News is we are not in this alone.  Our Lord boldly declares to us that he is with us.  And not only that – our Lord is leading us through these dark times to better times.  Think of how important the word “through” is.  God is leading us through this dark valley.  We aren’t going to stay in the valley.  We are going through it.  This isn’t permanent.  We aren’t going to be here forever.  This is just part of our journey.  A difficult part – most definitely.  But not for the whole journey.  Just a part of the journey.   

And we journey through this dark valley following our Lord who leads us through to the other side.  We walk with our God who loves us.  And promises to love us always.

You are not alone.  Your Lord is with you.  In fact – God promises to be with you each and every step of the way.  Your traveling companion is your Lord.

God is with you now.  God will be with you tomorrow and the day after that and the day after that.  In fact – God promises he will be with you for all eternity – leading you into the bright and glorious future that he has planned for you.

You are never alone.  The Lord loves you and is with you always.  Truly this is Good News.  AMEN.

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