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Saturday, September 20, 2014
When I walk through the shades of death
your presence is my stay;
one word of supporting breath
drives all my fears away.
Your hand, in sight of all my foes,
does still my table spread;
my cup with blessings overflows;
your oil anoints my head.
Isaac Watts’s “My Shepherd Will Supply My Need”
from Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal
The same week I moved to Chicago fifteen years ago to attend seminary, one of my uncles went into the hospital with cancer and was gone by Christmas. That following year one of his sons also died from cancer. It was a dark and troubling time for me. Far away from my Southern family, I felt isolated and alone in my new city. In the words of this setting of the Twenty-Third Psalm, I was walking through the shades of death.
I faced a theological crisis that many of us have known. How could it be that the faithful prayers of my family for the healing of my uncle and cousin went unanswered? Where was God in the midst of their suffering and deaths? Where was God in the midst of our grief?
Looking back on that time, I realized that perhaps I was looking for God in the wrong places. In hindsight, I could see that God was present in the love our family shared with each other, a love I could feel even though I was far away. This experience of the biblical contention that “God is love” has been the abiding foundation of my faith ever since. Seeking God in the love we share helps me to recognize God’s presence, the word of supporting breath that drives my fears away.
God of love, help me to recognize your presence even in the midst of suffering and grief. Amen.
Written by John W. Vest, Associate Pastor for Youth Ministry
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