The ancient towering redwoods silhouetted against a sky that appeared like a watercolor painting seized my attention. The multiple luminescent shades of blues, grays, and violets, framed by clouds and streaked by sunrays, formed a “ceiling” to this natural cathedral in the forest. I sat mesmerized from the campground underneath. This amazing chunk of nature was only twenty minutes from our house! What an incredible place we have found to live.
Children in the camp ran back and forth. What is better than the sounds of happy kids? A naturally beautiful place, a community that cares about children, small schools, fascinating Victorian architecture, a place with a sense of history, a good solid Bible believing church…what a great place to raise kids, I thought. Having been raised in a large Southern California city, with smog, crowds, traffic and the fear of strangers, I felt like I had found a piece of heaven. What I wouldn’t have given to have grown up in a place like this, I mused.
Twenty-four years have come and gone since those idyllic and somewhat naive thoughts. While my appreciation for the many benefits of this community continues, I have come to realize that this place is no safer than any other in many regards. As Philip Yancey points out in his excellent article Where Is God When It Hurts? On the Christianity Today.com website,http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2007/june/14.55.html incredible tragedies sometime come to out of the way places. There is no place that we can run to become a stranger to hurt, suffering and pain. They will be a part of our lives, and unwelcome companion, no matter where we go. We do not have a choice in that, our choice lies only in our response.
No one needs cliché answers when bad news hits. Whether that bad news affects the entire community or only one person, it seems the greatest comfort comes in the form of someone who has “been there.” We need to know we are not alone when we are hurting. We can have the assurance that Jesus is there for us, that He understands our suffering, because He has, above all, “been there.” And as God often works, He uses ordinary people who have also “been there” to minister to us and help us through the darkness of the situation until we can see a flicker of light. The “safe place” when we hurt is not a geographical spot on the map, but is found in the relationship of the One who weeps with us, feels our pain, and, as no one else can, cause goodness to come from a seemingly horrible situation.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.” II Corinthians 1:3-5