This week I was thinking about Nazareth.
When I was 20 years old, I went to summer school in Israel. Studying the history and geography of that land and the parables of Jesus while traveling around to biblical places with personal professors and fun friends, that was one of the best experiences of my life.
For two weeks we were housed in a Catholic guest house in the city of Nazareth, the town where Jesus grew up.
I clearly remember sitting alone on a hillside in a pine forest, memorizing what has become my favorite worship song:
Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation!
O my soul, praise Him for He is thy health and salvation.
All you who hear, now to His temple draw near,
join me in glad adoration!
Praise to the Lord, who o’er all things so wondrously reigneth!
Shelters thee under His wings, yea, so gently sustaineth!
Hast thou not seen how thy desires e’er have been
granted in what He ordaineth?
Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper thy work and defend thee.
Surely His goodness and mercy here daily attend thee.
Ponder anew what the Almighty can do,
if with His love He befriend thee.
As I sat on that Nazareth hill, I didn’t know I was learning important theology.
I saw this heart-breaking headline: Pastor took his life hours after officiating funeral of Christian woman who took her own.
Did you know this week is National Suicide Prevention Week?
“The American Association of Suicidology believes we need to focus on suicide prevention every day . . . by advocating for research funding, developing effective treatment tools and helping to educate others on resources and warning signs. It’s time to get involved…”
That young pastor was involved. Seriously. He and his wife started an outreach called Anthem of Hope to help others who were battling depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. He had been open about his own battles.
I guess he decided he couldn’t fight any more.
Oh, how I ache for his family.
Years ago in a therapy group I attended, there was a young man who father’s name was tattooed in large letters like a snake down his back. He was trying to alleviate the guilt he assumed after his father killed himself.
Suicide has long arms.
Yesterday listening to a podcast, I heard the brilliant Ravi Zacharias tell that he attempted suicide when he was 17 y.o. Obviously, it was unsuccessful, but imagine the pain and suffering that led him to that.
This week, these and other stories have laid heavy on my heart.
And this is the same week that God brought back that random Nazareth memory.
I’ve been pondering, why?
Perhaps it is God’s way of comforting me, by reminding me He is the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation. He reigns and sustains and ordains. He prospers and defends and befriends with goodness and mercy and love.
Sometimes people say they cannot believe in God’s love because of the reality of suffering.
But, as Ravi Zacharias said, perhaps the suffering is simply a catalyst to reveal what you already think of Him.
Suffering can push you toward God, when you believe He is there and He cares.
Or you walk away from the idea of God, because you think He isn’t there and He doesn’t care.
Don’t you wish everyone could be pushed toward God?
Like I was this week.