For many of us, Psalm 23 is the quintessential comforting word when facing death. I’ve always appreciated Marty Haugen’s “Shepherd Me, O God,” which is based on this psalm. “Shepherd me, O God, beyond my wants, beyond my fears, from death into life,” goes the refrain. It is true that we are born to die, and Haugen’s words capture that so beautifully because in dying we will have new life in Christ.
The Holy Spirit is singing these words in my heart right now. A 14-year-old boy, a friend of my godson, committed suicide last week. James was a good musician and actor. He was active in scouting and in his church. In fact, he took his life while on a mission trip with others from his congregation.
His death generates so many questions. What drew him to this drastic solution? Were there signs that those closest to him missed? Could anything have prevented this? The suicide of a 14-year-old boy with such promise makes no sense.
Meanwhile, the 28-year-old cousin of a friend is dying of liver cancer. Daniela is a single mom raising two children. She has worked hard. She loves life. She loves time spent with her children and her extended family as well.
This cancer raises so many questions. Why a single mom? Why a young woman? Who will care for the children? Will they remember their mother and her sacrifices? Terminal cancer in a 28-year-old single mom makes no sense.
There’s a lot on this side of God’s commonwealth that makes no sense. Wars, poverty, violence, racism, along with suicide and cancer. You can probably add several more items to this list from within your circle of family and friends. None of these will ever make sense, and for people without faith in God, that reality can be devastating.
But for those of us who are people of faith, we can take comfort in the promise that we will have all of eternity to talk with God and get answers to these questions that haunt us today. Shepherd us, O God, from death into life.
Linda Post Bushkofsky is executive director of Women of the ELCA.