"For you are with me, your staff is there to support me" (Psalm 23:4). These words written by King David during a very trying time in his life indicate his faith and devotion to the salvation offered by God in times of distress. Sometimes we witness the tragedy of tragedies, the taking of innocent life for no reason other than uncontrollable hate. How does color enter into the picture? Everyone is created in the image of God — no color, no religion, just a soul and a vessel that carries the soul.
How can God abandon us? After all, He too is colorless and blind to the differences within us as well as our outward appearance. Is God as blind as we are in our connection to one another? We seem to be blind to the point of indifference and turn away when needed most. Helpless, we wander through the agony of despair. We look for answers as to why we sit idle and allow our deepest distrust and anger to be part of a society that enjoys the spectacle of horror.
These thoughts came to mind, after sitting and watching the agony of alienation unfold before my very eyes last week. I started to read the Twenty-Third Psalm. During times of grief or times of sorrowful news, it comforts me because it gives me courage and hope. Even so, the mind somehow travels to memories of unfortunate incidents that shade the glory of marvelous experiences. Moreover, we tend to dwell on the bad and relegate the good to the shadows of anguish.
People live and people die, but what happens in between can be daunting. Hearing news that illness has taken hold or that some people are discarded through ignorance has us trapped in a cycle of pain. The news is not so good and the outcome so predictable. Once there was vibrancy and gaiety, but now pain and misery, as we wait for the final curtain to come down on our lives and our hopes and dreams.
Where is God? Why is this happening? Where are the days filled with laughter and celebration? We search for answers and realize that there are none. There is illness and sometimes recovery. Such is not the case now. The news is just bad — no hope — just the realization of finality.
People constantly ask me these very questions, and I search for answers that will comfort and console. I cannot show frustration nor can I give up. I see pain on the faces of those afflicted and those standing close with no ability to heal or respond to the anticipated emptiness.
God is there to provide a certain balance in life. On the one hand, He extends His hand to lift the spirit, as the other hand understands the affliction. It is hard to describe this to someone who is going through the ordeal. It is even harder to comprehend the belief that God affords us the opportunity to receive comfort even while He cannot prevent the drama from unfolding.
The Prophet Isaiah reminds us that God will comfort us, giving us the ability to cope. We tend to forget the goodness and kindness that we encountered as we moved through the journey of life. We become so engrossed in our distress that we cannot recall the beauty of the steps we took as we moved from episode to contentment.
No words can suffice to bring solace to the prospect of death and no actions taken by others will give us the ability to forget the anger and frustration. It is up to us to return to the center of life through reliance on ourselves, our family, our friends, and our appreciation of God who is there to take our hand as we are guided on the path of release — the release of all our burdens.
I look at the sick and infirm and I realize that my function is to hold a hand, or kiss a brow, or listen to their cries for help. I cannot cure the aching body but I can deepen their understanding of reaching out to receive an extended hand in friendship and understanding. My heart aches for the afflicted. I attempt to understand and respond through the cries of misery.
Where is God? God is everywhere we want Him to be and even places where we would least expect. In the Book of Kings, we read that God is not in the wind, not in the earthquake, not in fire, but in a still small voice. That voice can be ours reaching out to walk with God in our hour of need because He will hear and He does see and He does comfort.
Spinoza, taught that eternity is the very core of God. There is no end. There is continuation of life. There is immortality. There is life after death. There is grace and there is forgiveness. God made all things both good and not so good and it is up to us to glean the good from among all that there is so that we can enjoy life and expect connection at death.
Watching people go through the pangs of torment can be unnerving but I remember the final words of the Psalm 23, “And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Rabbi Irwin Wiener, D.D., is the spiritual leader of Sun Lakes Jewish Congregation. He wrote this meditation in reaction to the massacre in Charleston, South Carolina, last week.