Could I Do That?

I was watching a documentary on “The West” produced by Ken Burns. At one point, the focus was the Oregon Trail and the early settlers who travelled on it by wagon train in the first half of the 19th century. The story was told of the Sager family comprised of two parents and their seven children.   Along the way both parents died, leaving the seven children as orphans. If that wasn’t tragic enough, the husband and wife who adopted the seven children were both killed three years later leaving the children orphans yet again. Of the seven, only four lived to adulthood. Catherine Sager, their oldest daughter, wrote of her experiences later in life.

As I learned of this story I was horrified. How could anyone survive such tragedy? I wondered if Catherine was a Christian and, if so, did her faith sustain her? It was hard not to ask the question, “Could I do that? Could I have lived through such immeasurable grief and sadness in the face of great tragedy?”

I think we all ask those questions when we hear such stories or when our imaginations run wild and we consider worst case scenarios. How would we ever survive? Paralyzing fear takes hold.

The most memorable psalm of all, Psalm 23, helps. It’s often called the Shepherd’s psalm. We read in Psalm 23:4   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. (ESV)

Regardless of whatever we face, the Lord, our good shepherd, promises to be with us. We don’t have to succumb to mind-numbing fear. He’s there to comfort and to guide. That helps- a lot.

It also helps to remember God doesn’t give grace to face hypothetical trials, only real ones. Spending time wondering “what if” is a waste of time. When and if those severe trials come, then we can look to Him for sustaining grace.

Could I survive the trials a Catherine Sager or a Corrie Ten Boom faced? I may never know. If I do, I have a shepherd who’s already proven His love and faithfulness by dying for me and by virtue of His resurrection lives to sustain me. That’s a shepherd I can trust.