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When Tragedy Strikes

It was a weekend of tragedy in the county, not least on the roads. Firstly, let me extend sympathy to the grieving families in Carrigart, Ramelton and Bunbeg. But such is the nature of life that by the time this column is printed heartbreak and hurt will have been stamped indelibly across the lives of others.

Where do we find help when tragedy strikes? Let me point you to the familiar words of Psalm 23, also known as ‘The Lord is my Shepherd’. If you have a Bible near to hand I would encourage you to read them. I want to comment simply on three phrases.

“He makes me lie down … He restores my soul” – Tragedy tears us apart and leaves us broken and hurting in the innermost recesses of our lives. Sleep becomes difficult, a place where memories haunt us and our tears are the loneliest. The ancient songwriter tells us that God is a God who restores souls. What beautiful imagery – it calls to mind an artist tenderly and carefully piecing together a damaged masterpiece. There is a God you can go to who will restore your soul with such care and tenderness, and in doing so you will find peace even to lie down and sleep.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death … you are with me” – Part of tragedy’s agony is the loneliness it brings. Each person affected feels the pain differently, and so even within a family people can feel isolated. The songwriter tells us from his own experience that in the dark valleys of life he has found a companion, a guide who has been there before, and who knows the hurt and the pain and the loneliness. He is pointing us to Jesus Christ, the one who has gone right through the valley of death and who offers companionship in every dark valley.

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies” – In these words we see a God who provides strength and sustenance even in the hardest of times. When the enemies of pain, loss and grief surround us the songwriter tells us that God will provide from the deep resources of his strength.

In this ancient song we find that although the pain does not magically disappear, the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, offers to come to us in our loss and to go through it with us. Whatever your hurt I pray that you will look to and find help from the God who restores, who accompanies and who sustains.