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Footsteps to Follow: God is with us through it all

Recently, while traveling in the northern rural area of our state, I happened upon a bear. It appeared to me that he/she may have slipped down an embankment, landing alongside the road. The bear was obviously in a stressed, fearful state, clamoring and clawing its way with a strong desire to return to where it had descended from-the top of the mountain, hoping to return to more secure footing. I continued with my travels having a deep concern for the fate of that precious member of the animal kingdom.

The bear I came across that day some weeks ago personifies the fear, stress and anxiety we often feel. One day we might feel on top of the world, only to slide down a slippery slope of adversity and despair brought on by any number of life’s situations.

In a split second, you and I can experience an environment of security and well-being, only to find ourselves, in the next second, clawing our way with the hope of returning to a higher place of peace and tranquility.

Predicaments we face often lead us to ponder our spiritual journey and God’s place in leading us, in faith, to higher ground where normalcy replaces confused states and orderliness assumes a new, dominant, and beneficial role.

As one who has deep respect and appreciation for the racial, cultural, life style, and religious diversity in the north American way of life, I think further reflecting on a few basic religious truths as outlined in Islam, Judaism, and Christianity will be helpful. Although this is not an exhaustive representation, please consider these words:

In Islam, The Quran states, “But Allah will safeguard all who are conscious of Him, granting happiness by virtue of personal triumphs; no evil shall touch them and neither shall they grieve” (Az-Zumar 39:61).

In Judaism, The Hebrew Bible states, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9 NIV).

In Christianity, The New Testament of Jesus the Christ records that Jesus said, “Come to me, all you that are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30 NRSV).

Our lives have days when difficulties arise. These challenges can last but a few minutes or can remain for years. Human predicaments lead us to uncertain and unpredictable times. We cannot sidestep them. We cannot look the other way and develop an attitude of avoidance.

All is not lost.

Regardless of our religious preference, past times are clear, present moments are definite, and future days are unmistakable. Divine Presence is real. Divine Love is genuine. Divine Goodness is authentic. Divine companionship is eternal.

Rev. Ron Shellhamer, retired Lutheran pastor, ELCA

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