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“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)

In a conversation with a funeral director, he cited the story about the burial of an underprivileged woman who had lived for years in the county poor house. Over the time she resided there, a portion of her limited funds was set aside for a simple burial. When the time of her passing came, a meager interment would be provided. However, one detail remained – a burial plot needed to be obtained. After much searching of the local cemeteries, an insignificant location was found along a fence in one of the graveyards. In spite of her modest means, the lady received a complete and proper burial including the marking of the grave with her name. Not long afterwards, the funeral director received a phone call from a more prominent member of the community who questioned why he would choose to bury this lady next to her family plot. How presumptuous, you might say. Would one dare ask the question – how often do we look at someone else’s life and consider it to be inferior to our own?

On October 1, 2017  Tom McIntosh and his wife were among thousands attending an outdoor country music festival in Las Vegas, Nevada. Suddenly bullets began flying through the air, while many believed at first that the gun sounds were fireworks. Upon the awareness of what was actually happening, the concertgoers ran for safety. As McIntosh helped his wife and another lady over a barrier wall, he was shot in the leg. As he lowered himself over the other side, he realized that he was badly bleeding. Then James Lawson, a complete stranger, appeared ready to help. He assisted with the placement of a makeshift tourniquet while another stranger transported them to the hospital in the bed of a pickup truck. He feels he wouldn’t have made it if it wasn’t for Lawson who unassumingly credited dozens of others like himself performing very similar acts.  One of those other helpers, a firefighter, was quoted as saying – “I was in the wrong place at the right time.” And that was true for many on that ominous day.

Stories like this serve to validate who we really are. We can run for the hills and never look back, or we can become the kind of person God would want us to be. He gave those who helped in Las Vegas the courage to shelter others with their own bodies. When we see someone else’s life just as important as our own, we humble ourselves before God. Tragic circumstances are reminders for each of us to consider the fragility of life and our relationship with Him. Jesus was asked about a tragedy that had occurred in His day. His followers were suggesting that when people die in some kind of arbitrary act, God might be judging them. Jesus responded by saying, “Do you think those Galileans were worse sinners than all the other people from Galilee? Is that why they suffered? Not at all! And you will perish, too, unless you repent of your sins and turn to God” (Luke 13:2-3). In that regard, we acknowledge that we are all paupers who come with nothing to offer Him but our sin and our need for salvation.  We recognize our lack of value and our complete inability to save ourselves.

There are always those who will ask, “Where was God in the midst of this tragedy? In perilous times, God is always present in His role as shepherd and comforter. When David was being hunted by King Saul who wanted him dead, he declared, “In you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by” (Psalm 57:1).  We all long for the day when God wipes away every tear and there is no more death (Revelation 21:4).  Until that comes to pass, the Bible doesn’t give us a guarantee of shelter from every kind of harm.  The shooting in Las Vegas did not slip past God, for our times continue to be in His hands. The prophet said: “Good people pass away; the godly often die before their time. But no one seems to care or wonder why. No one seems to understand that God is protecting them from the evil to come” (Isaiah 57:1). The righteous man, when he dies, enters into peace and rest. For those of us who remain on this earth continuing to be faced with matters of life and death – know that He is there to remind us that we can, at any time, take refuge in the shadow of His wings.

REFLECTION: How can we seek God’s help to grant us humility so that we do not see our life more valuable than that of others? In what ways might we search for His refuge in everyday situations?


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