I, with my family, still find ourselves in Kansas as our time with parents, grandparents, and great-grandparent draws to a close. Shanna and I had the opportunity to enjoy one of the sudden and severe thunderstorms that are not at all unfamiliar to Kansas while we were driving home from an evening out. As we drove towards the darkened sky in front of us, lightning bolts splitting the distant sky and thunder rumbling, first at the edge of hearing, and then all around us as we entered the storm, I was struck with a thought. What must a storm of this magnitude have felt like for those who experienced them before we could explain its mechanism, predict its coming, and shelter from it in relative confidence of our safety?
This mental exercise brings a profound renewal of meaning to Psalm 23 (the Psalm appointed for this coming Sunday). "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death," the Psalmist muses, "I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff comfort me." The ancients would have clung to this notion of divine safety, for they would have little of their own making by which they could keep themselves safe from the raging of the chaos of the natural world around them. By contrast, we have so many comforts and protections in the modern world that shelter us from that chaos and uncertainty. We can use technology to keep us safe from the dangers of nature; we can use medical knowledge to stave off the ravages of time and the frailty of our bodies; we can use communication technology to surround ourselves with likeminded people and avoid confrontations with any competing thoughts or ideaologies. We have the ability to control so much of our surroundings, and in so doing, we have the ability to create for ourselves an environment that feels safe, secure, and comfortable.
All too often, though, this feeling of safety, security, and comfort is an illusion. The chaos of the world still bubbles and churns around us, and when that chaos finally finds a crack or a chink in the walls we have erected we can quickly be overcome by feelings of anxiety, panic, and despair. We have grown accustomed to controlling our surroundings and feeling safe and at peace because of that control; when that control is lost, then the feeling of peace and security goes with it.
This is not how we are to live life, though. When we face the valley of the shadow of death and the chaos of the world seems ready to drown us in its torrent, we, like the psalmist, are to say, "I will fear no evil because God is with me." If God will never leave us nor forsake us, then there is no circumstance or situation of life in which we cannot say, "God is with me," and therefore there is no situation in life, no matter how dire, in which we cannot say, "I will fear no evil."
We read the headlines, we hear the news, we experience the concern that comes with living in the midst of the chaos of the world, but God says, "I am with you, you need not fear the evil." Christ has freed us, through the resurrection, from the specter of the chaos of the grave itself because He conquered death and the grave. This is our source of peace, and safety, and hope, and joy. We are not slaves to the circumstances and chaos of life; rather, we are freed to have joy in the midst of pain, peace in the midst of chaos, and confidence in the midst uncertainty.
May we all live as those who are confident in the hope of the resurrection, looking to Christ, not the circumstances around us, as the source of peace, comfort, and contentment in life.
(as published in St. Luke's Weekly Newsletter, 7/18/18)