Fearing Tragedy: Trusting God with the “What If?”


Fearing Tragedy: Trusting God with the “What If?”

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil, for you are with me;

your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

– Psalm 23:4

My Fear: The “Till Death” Part

“Quina, will you marry me?”

“Yyyeess…but…is there any way for us to ensure that we’ll grow old together until we both painlessly slip away into eternity…in our sleep…on the same night…gently holding each other…our many children, all believing, having started their own families?”

As I write this I’m anticipating hearing that wonderful, “Quina, will you marry me?” question any day now (and every day, of course, feels like fifty). I’m ready to exclaim, “Yes! Yes, of course!” I’m also praying that my heart doesn’t inwardly respond as I just imagined it above.

J.C. Ryle once stated, “The greater are our affections the deeper are our afflictions, and the more we love the more we have to weep.” At the precipice of pending covenant blessing, images have been flooding my mind with the billions of ways that tragedy may very well befall me. But don’t we all wrestle with these fears at some point? Even Job, the most righteous man of his time, admitted when he lost his children, wealth, and health, “the thing that I fear comes upon me, and what I dread befalls me.” (Job 3:25). His worst nightmares came true. What if mine do too? And what about you?

Why I Can Still Say, “I Do”: He Is With Me

Psalm 23, too easily glanced over because of its familiarity, is filled with precious gospel promises—each blood-bought for us by our Good Shepherd who Himself became the atoning Lamb of God (cf. Psalm 23:1, John 1:29, & John 10:11). This very personal psalm, written by the shepherd-made-king of Israel, speaks from the sheep’s confident perspective of the Shepherd’s loving provision (23:1), protection (23:2-4), and purpose for His sheep (23:5-6). In my fight with the paralyzing fear of tragedy, I’ve found each verse of this psalm to be rich with God’s sufficiency through every path He leads me.

Note, for example, verse 4: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Here it is: the valley I’m fearing. And like Christian in The Pilgrim’s Progress, the only way to reach the Celestial City is to traverse through, not around, this valley.

But our great Shepherd’s gracious presence makes any valley fruitful (Hebrews 13:20-21). He promises to be with us in a particularly consoling way through our worst possible heartbreaks. Yes, His rod disciplines us all-too-easily-straying sheep; but it also wards off Satan, the world, and our unbelief. Plus, His guiding staff proves His compassion and care for His fearful sheep. With it He draws us to Himself in close intimacy. With it He reassures us of His loving, immovable presence and His wise direction.

When the fear of tragedy threatens your joy and trust in the Good Shepherd, behold His rod and His staff: precious promises like those in Psalm 23 which confirm that He is favorably with you forever, especially through the valley of unspeakable tragedy.

Where else in Scripture can you find God’s promise to be with His people? How does this particular promise propel us to take love-motivated risks and make sacrifice-requiring commitments? Here are a few places you can start: Deuteronomy 31:6-9; Psalm 108:13; Isaiah 43:1-3; Matthew 28:18-20; Revelation 21:3.

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  1. 2
    Laura

    Some people think it’s strange that I love the movie “Premonition” so much, but it’s because of the truth presented in the quote from JC Ryle’s that you mentioned. In that movie, God showed me I cannot love deeply and protect myself from the pain tragedy ensues. Jesus is the primary example. And no servant is greater than their master. I remember when Adam and I first started dating. I was so happy and so fearful at the same time. What if something horrible happens? I find myself having similar thoughts as we approach our wedding day (JUNE 7 WooHOOO!). And then I move beyond the possibility of tragedy before the day to all that could happen after. I say all that to say that I appreciate this blog post very much. And I am going to meditate on this psalm and the truth that God is with me.

    What I like about Psalm 108:13 is the reality that God will tread down our foes, and I think it important to realize he will tread down real foes. Someone one said in my church small group that God gives grace for real danger when we are in them, not imagined danger. True, God does still help us with our inward trials, but that really helped me. I am fearing something that hasn’t happened. God will be with me if anything happens and the strength and grace will come at that time. I don’t have to worry. Or fear.

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