The ongoing wildfires in northern California have killed 40 people and burned down almost 6,000 homes as of this writing. Among the dead was an elderly couple who had just celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary - the man was 100 years old and his wife was 98.
Just over a week ago in what is now known as the worst mass shooting in modern US history a sick individual sprayed bullets on thousands of concertgoers in Las Vegas killing 58 people and wounding hundreds more.
There are no simple answers to the pain and suffering in the world. We can preach or pontificate about it but to the families of the victims of the deadly fires in California and mass shooting in Las Vegas who are still grappling with their tragedies there is probably nothing that could make sense right now, only the reality of the searing pain of sorrow and loneliness.
We live in troubled times. So where do we turn to when the chips are down and we are faced with personal tragedies? Well we are a free people and we can respond any way we want. We can either give in to our circumstances or try to overcome them. Our responses will always boil down to two realities - either through rebellion or submission.
In Psalm 31, we find David in the midst of despair and and he did not hide the fact that he was fast losing it, "Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and body with grief. My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak."
But then David knew exactly where to go and how to respond to his despair. He turns to the ROCK and holds on to Him in the most distressful time of his life, "In you, Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness. Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my ROCK of refuge, a strong fortress to save me. Since you are my ROCK and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me...into your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, Lord, my faithful God."
Sure we can choose to be in rebellion and reject any thought of God but where else can we turn to? Outside of God everything else will only offer temporary relief, a false sense of security and artificial rest. The soul will continue to groan and be restless if its Creator is taken out of the equation.
David chose his one and only best option. He gathers himself up and proclaims, "But I trust in you Lord; I say, 'You are my God.'" Even in our deepest lost and brokenness we can say with David, "How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you."
I'd like to paraphrase his last words, "Be strong and take heart for He is with you no matter what. As you hope in the Lord, He will sustain you."
Two thousand years ago, Jesus reassured a jittery group of disciples, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."