News Sandy's Comments

Darkest valleys are lit by the mercy of God (Psalm 23)

Written by Rev Sharon Hollis, President of the Uniting Church in Australia and originally published here

This week, many of us will hear Psalm 23 read in our worship services. It is a psalm that speaks of God’s goodness, God’s mercy and God’s provision. It is a psalm that has been prayed for millennia by the people of Israel. It is a prayer Jesus prayed as he grew up and went about his ministry.

It is also a prayer that speaks of suffering so profound it is experienced of the darkest valley.

We come to the psalm this week with the shadow of death, fear and suffering all around us. And we wonder where God is. Are we forsaken? How will we live in the face of violence, death and despair?

We think of the darkest valley that those who were killed in a shopping centre in Bondi, those who were wounded and those who witnessed the violence are walking through.

We remember the priests and people of Christ the Good Shepherd Church who seek peace and forgiveness in response to the violence in their sacred meeting space.

We call to mind the people of Ballarat struggling with the violent death of three women, and women and non-binary people everywhere who wonder if they are safe to go about their daily business.

We think of those in our communities with mental illness; who will now fear how they are seen, will worry that people will turn from them afraid they too might be violent. They walk this dark valley daily.

Ever before us is the darkest valley of Gaza, the war in Ukraine, violence, war and hunger in countries we barely hear of where people suffer without end in sight.

The witness of Easter is that our darkest valleys are lit by the mercy of God who comes not as one removed from the suffering of the world but as One who has walked this darkest valley before us and has transformed the darkness. The One who cried at the grave of a friend, prayed for suffering to pass him by, laid down his life, died with a cry of God forsakenness on his lips. This One walks with us in the darkest valley and calls us to love and peace.

Because we walk through the darkest valley with the Holy One who has trod this path before us, we can hope that maybe, just maybe, healing will come to brokenness, we will see peace where it seems hopeless, those most in need will know mercy.

Because we walk through the darkest valley with the Holy One who has trod this path before us, we can hope that maybe, just maybe, we will find ourselves comforted and made whole and can participate in God’s healing of a broken world.

I encourage us all to continue holding our nation and world in prayer and to hold each other in loving care.

If you are distressed or need support at this time, reach out to:

24/7 crisis support and suicide prevention services.
13 11 14

Beyond Blue
Mental health support for anyone in Australia.
1300 224 636

A free, confidential and culturally safe service managed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
13 92 76