Scripture: Psalm 121
Key verse: (1) “I lift up my eyes…”
Reflection: When I came back to Christian faith as a young adult, I was certain that if I prayed regularly and was devoted to God through acts of service that nothing bad would happen to me. I felt protected by God’s love, mercy and sovereignty. However, I quickly began to see that bad things happened to good people on a fairly regular basis. At first I was judgmental saying to myself: “if only they prayed more this wouldn’t have happened.” But, then I realized that good and faithful people — stronger Christians than I — suffered under all kinds of circumstances, not of their own making. For years I struggled with the dilemma of a good God and human suffering. My faith was challenged and I discovered there was no easy answer. God couldn’t be explained using a simple formula of cause and effect. Through this struggle, I became more and more aware of how God is present with us, especially during the challenging times. In fact, God is present even when we aren’t aware. Many would argue that God then isn’t good and certainly not powerful. And yet, every person of faith that I have known finds, on a deep, soulful level, that God is with them, giving them a sense of peace and even healing whether they live or die.
I begin every funeral I conduct with the opening words of Psalm 121. It is a reminder to lift our eyes above our distress to God who is present with us in life and in death. It is a reminder that as we walk through the ups and downs of life we can’t get away from the LORD. The creator of the heavens and the earth is awake and knows what we are going through. In the sunlight or in the shade, the LORD is there. In the times of struggle and times of ease, the LORD is there. Even though evil might surround us in the form of oppression, war or disease, the LORD is there. We belong to God. This won’t take away what we are going through, but it will transform our experiences and give us hope. Lift up your eyes.
Prayer: Merciful God, we give thanks that though we suffer in life, nothing can separate us from you. Our bodies will fail, our relationships may fall apart, our hearts may be broken but you remain with us forever. Hold us in your loving arms and help us experience the peace only you can give. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Author: Deborah Conner
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].