Summer vacations are traditionally used to spend time to relax and unwind, and don’t get me wrong, I’ve spent plenty of time doing that this summer. However, as a family, we also like to spend our vacations learning something new, educating ourselves in some manner in our travels. So this year, among the excitement and fun of travelling into New York City, I took a trip to the Twin Towers Memorial, the site of a national tragedy where thousands of lives were lost. I watched as individuals traced their fingers over the names of the deceased, visitors gazed deeply into the fountains that poured into the ground where the towers once stood, and people reflected and wept. We often ask why tragedy occurs in life, and many often end up blaming God for either causing such horrors to happen or allowing them to. The truth is, we don’t really know God’s overall plan, and only He can explain such tragedies. However, what we often miss is not why these events happen, but where God is during these times. As David of Psalm 23 was being persecuted by his oppressors, he didn’t question why, but instead looked to God for security: “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (23.4). David knew that no matter what happened to him, God was with Him and that there was an end to this valley. What I observed with these people in New York was that despite the pain, the hurt, and the emotion, God was there with them all. He was with them in their darkest hour and He was going to stay with them throughout their suffering. Similarly, on a trip to Hawaii, I took a day trip to Pearl Harbor, and found the situation to be quite similar there. Another national tragedy where thousands of lives were lost, we visited the bombed area and the memorial that floats above the USS Missouri, a visible ship that sunk with hundreds of sailors on board. As the oil still wept to the surface from the ship below, I discovered a deep and reverent silence around me. Visitors took this trip as an opportunity for reflection and deep introspection on life, God, and man. Tears were shed as the loss of life was contemplated. There, too, God was present years after this tragedy had happened. Clearly, God had filled these two places with His presence and stayed to comfort these people. What might have been just another harbor or financial district, was now a place where God was contemplated and sought out, creating a place for God’s comfort. Even though we don’t understand the why of tragedy, we can still see how God is made perfect in it. What also struck me was how hurt can last so long. Thankfully, when tragedy happens, God remains there until the last person is done hurting: that’s His promise to us. He doesn’t abandon us but instead uses tragedy to draw us closer to Him, and He’s willing to stay until the very end of hurting, whether it be fifteen years, seventy-five years, or a million years. At Pearl Harbor, we ran into a ninety-nine-year-old survivor who, despite experiencing this tragedy, joyously smiled as he met so many new people. His shining example of healing displayed not only God’s willingness to stay with us forever, but also how His ability to take us back from the furthest edge of pain and hopelessness eclipses anything this world can throw at us. Right now, if you are going through something awful, it may seem bleak, hopeless, and never-ending, but know that not only will it get better, but God will stay at your side and guide you through this time even until the end of time. Amen.